Objectives: 1) To describe distortion product otoacoustic emission (DPOAE) levels, noise levels and signal to noise ratios (SNRs) for a wide range of frequencies and two stimulus levels in neonates and infants. 2) To describe the relations between these DPOAE measurements and age, test environment, baby state, and test time.
Design: DPOAEs were measured in 2348 well babies without risk indicators, 353 well babies with at least one risk indicator, and 4478 graduates of neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). DPOAE and noise levels were measured at f2 frequencies of 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0 kHz, and for primary levels (L1/L2) of 65/50 dB SPL and 75/75 dB SPL. Measurement-based stopping rules were used such that a test did not terminate unless the response was at least 3 dB above the mean noise floor + 2 SDs (SNR) for at least four of five test frequencies. The test would terminate, however, if these criteria were not met after 360 sec. Baby state, test environment, and other test factors were captured at the time of each test.
Results: DPOAE levels, noise levels and SNRs were similar for well babies without risk indicators, well babies with risk indicators, and NICU graduates. There was a tendency for larger responses at f2 frequencies of 1.5 and 2.0 Hz, compared with 3.0 and 4.0 kHz; however, the noise levels systematically decreased as frequency increased, resulting in the most favorable SNRs at 3.0 and 4.0 kHz. Response levels were least and noise levels highest for an f2 frequency of 1.0 kHz. In addition, test time to achieve automatic stopping criteria was greatest for 1.0 kHz. With the exception of "active/alert" and "crying" babies, baby state had little influence on DPOAE measurements. Additionally, test environment had little impact on these measurements, at least for the environments in which babies were tested in this study. However, the lowest SNRs were observed for infants who were tested in functioning isolettes. Finally, there were some subtle age affects on DPOAE levels, with the infants born most prematurely producing the smallest responses, regardless of age at the time of test.
Conclusions: DPOAE measurements in neonates and infants result in robust responses in the vast majority of ears for f2 frequencies of at least 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0 kHz. SNRs decrease as frequency decreases, making the measurements less reliable at 1.0 kHz. When considered along with test time, there may be little justification for including an f2 frequency at 1.0 kHz in newborn screening programs. It would appear that DPOAEs result in reliable measurements when tests are conducted in the environments in which babies typically are found. Finally, these data suggest that babies can be tested in those states of arousal that are most commonly encountered in the perinatal period.