Olivocochlear activity and temporary threshold shift-susceptibility in humans

W. Wagner*, G. Heppelmann, M. Kuehn, M. Tisch, R. Vonthein, H. P. Zenner

*Corresponding author for this work
30 Citations (Scopus)


STUDY OBJECTIVES: Animal studies (guinea pig, cat, chinchilla) have shown that activity of the medial olivocochlear efferents can exert noise-protective effects on the cochlea. It is not yet known whether such effects are also existent in humans. Olivocochlear activity can be estimated indirectly by contralateral suppression (CS) of otoacoustic emissions (OAE). MATERIAL AND METHODS: We measured Input/Output functions of distortion products of OAE (DPOAE), with and without contralateral acoustic stimulation by white noise, in 94 normal hearing young male subjects. Seven stimuli with L2 between 20 and 60 dB SPL and L1 = 39 dB + 0.4 L2 ("scissor paradigm") were used at f2 = 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 kHz. The measurement was repeated 2 weeks later. In 83 subjects of the same group, pure tone audiometry was registered before and 6 minutes after shooting exercises to evaluate individual susceptibility to develop a temporary threshold shift (TTS). RESULTS: Test-retest repeatability of CS was generally good. CS averaged 0.98 dB SPL (SD 1.19 dB, median 0.56 dB). As expected, CS was greatest at low stimulus levels (median 1.06 dB at L2 = 20 dB, as compared with 0.33 dB at L2 = 60 dB). The smallest average CS was found at 4 kHz, and the greatest CS appeared at 2 kHz. A TTS occurred in 7 of 83 (8.5%) subjects. Statistical analysis did not reveal any correlation between the amount of CS and individual TTS susceptibility. CONCLUSIONS AND OUTLOOK: 1) Measurement of CS of DPOAE using an extensive measurement paradigm revealed good test-retest repeatability, confirming the reliability of this audiologic tool. 2) CS of DPOAE does not predict individual susceptibility to mild TTS induced by impulse noise in humans. Possible explanations for the missing association are discussed. Future perspectives include longitudinal studies to further elucidate the association between medial olivocochlear bundle-activity and permanent threshold shift in humans. The goal is to develop a diagnostic tool for the prediction of individual noise vulnerability in humans, thereby preventing noise-induced hearing loss.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number11
Pages (from-to)2021-2028
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 11.2005


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