Introduction: The characteristics of otoacoustic emissions that make them ideally suited for universal newborn hearing loss screening could potentially be useful for the screening of older children. This study was performed in order to assess the role of otoacoustic emissions in a screening programme for middle-ear disorders and hearing loss in school-age children.
Methods: Cross-sectional, preliminary screening study.
Setting: Primary schools of Argolida municipality, south-east Greece, between December 2004 and March 2005. PATIENT SELECTION AND RECRUITMENT: All the primary school students of Argolida were invited, by press releases and individually by their teachers, to attend a session of otological and audiological screening.
Results: One hundred and ninety-six children were evaluated using transient evoked otoacoustic emissions. Twenty per cent failed in both ears, while in 32 per cent otoacoustic emissions could not be produced in at least one ear. Younger children had higher rates of absent transient evoked otoacoustic emissions. The absence of otoacoustic emissions was highly correlated with tympanic membrane changes seen on otoscopy and the presence of a type B tympanogram. As a single screening modality, otoacoustic emissions had a 100 per cent sensitivity in diagnosing hearing loss worse than 30 dB, and a 90 per cent sensitivity and 64 per cent specificity in diagnosing hearing loss worse than 25 dB, which did not improve by adding tympanometry to the screening protocol.
Conclusion: These results strongly suggest the potential usefulness of otoacoustic emission testing in screening school-age children for hearing loss. Further studies, taking into account cost-effectiveness issues, are indicated.