Quantitative analysis of cochlear active mechanisms in tinnitus subjects with normal hearing sensitivity: multiparametric recording of evoked otoacoustic emissions and contralateral suppression

Auris Nasus Larynx. 2010 Jun;37(3):291-8. doi: 10.1016/j.anl.2009.09.009. Epub 2009 Oct 29.


Objective: Aim of this study was to investigate the possible role played by outer hair cells and cochlear efferent system functionality when tinnitus develops in normal hearing ears. A multiparametric approach was used, entailing recording and analysis of a set of otoacoustic emissions (OAEs): distortion product (DPOAEs), transient evoked (TEOAEs) and efferent-mediated TEOAE suppression in the presence of contralateral acoustic stimulation (CAS).

Methods: Fifty-four subjects with normal hearing sensitivity participated in the study. Twenty-three suffered from chronic subjective tinnitus whereas thirty-one did not have tinnitus and acted as control subjects. DPOAEs were measured with eliciting tones of frequency ratio 1.22 and intensity 65 and 55dB SPL in the frequency range 0.5-8kHz. TEOAEs were recorded with the 'linear' protocol using clicks at 60dB peak SPL both in the absence and in the presence of CAS at two different intensities. DPOAE amplitude, TEOAE amplitude, and TEOAE suppression were analysed as relevant parameters.

Results: Significantly reduced DPOAE amplitude in the frequency range 1.5-8kHz, lower TEOAE amplitude, and slightly decreased TEOAE suppression were measured in tinnitus subjects compared to non-tinnitus controls. In particular, 74% of tinnitus subjects exhibited abnormal DPOAEs, 13% had abnormal TEOAEs, whereas abnormal TEOAE suppression was found in 9% of patients.

Conclusion: Overall, the present work revealed the presence of abnormal OAEs, in particular at higher frequencies, in tinnitus subjects with normal hearing sensitivity. A minor (i.e., sub-clinical) outer hair cell dysfunction, particularly in high-frequency cochlear regions, might thus be assumed in normal hearing tinnitus subjects. In order to better put in light the possible role played by outer hair cells in low-frequency cochlear regions, or by the cochlear efferent system, additional analyses would be needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cochlea / pathology*
  • Cochlea / physiopathology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / diagnosis
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Otoacoustic Emissions, Spontaneous / physiology*
  • Tinnitus* / complications
  • Tinnitus* / pathology
  • Tinnitus* / physiopathology
  • Young Adult