Ear asymmetries in middle-ear, cochlear, and brainstem responses in human infants

J Acoust Soc Am. 2008 Mar;123(3):1504-12. doi: 10.1121/1.2832615.


In 2004, Sininger and Cone-Wesson examined asymmetries in the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of otoacoustic emissions (OAE) in infants, reporting that distortion-product (DP)OAE SNR was larger in the left ear, whereas transient-evoked (TE)OAE SNR was larger in the right. They proposed that cochlear and brainstem asymmetries facilitate development of brain-hemispheric specialization for sound processing. Similarly, in 2006 Sininger and Cone-Wesson described ear asymmetries mainly favoring the right ear in infant auditory brainstem responses (ABRs). The present study analyzed 2640 infant responses to further explore these effects. Ear differences in OAE SNR, signal, and noise were evaluated separately and across frequencies (1.5, 2, 3, and 4 kHz), and ABR asymmetries were compared with cochlear asymmetries. Analyses of ear-canal reflectance and admittance showed that asymmetries in middle-ear functioning did not explain cochlear and brainstem asymmetries. Current results are consistent with earlier studies showing right-ear dominance for TEOAE and ABR. Noise levels were higher in the right ear for OAEs and ABRs, causing ear asymmetries in SNR to differ from those in signal level. No left-ear dominance for DPOAE signal was observed. These results do not support a theory that ear asymmetries in cochlear processing mimic hemispheric brain specialization for auditory processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology
  • Cochlea / physiology*
  • Ear / physiology*
  • Ear, Middle / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem / physiology*
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Hearing / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Otoacoustic Emissions, Spontaneous / physiology*