Realizing the full potential of otoacoustic emissions (OAEs) as noninvasive probes of cochlear function requires understanding the physical and physiological mechanisms that generate and shape these sounds. Despite considerable recent progress identifying fundamental differences among OAE types, many aspects of OAE generation remain controversial and poorly understood. Over the next five years we propose to test models of OAE generation and to explore hypothesized interrelationships between OAEs and other measures of cochlear function, including auditory-nerve tuning and basilar- membrane motion.
In Aim 1 we will determine the relationship between cochlear tuning and OAEs in individual ears by measuring the amplitude and phase of auditory-nerve tuning and stimulus-frequency otoacoustic emissions (SFOAEs) using the same stimuli. In addition, we will use the data both to determine the functional characteristics of cochlear wave propagation and amplification, including their dependence on characteristic frequency and intensity, and to test models of OAE generation throughout the cochlea. We will test our auditory-nerve based conclusions with mechanical measurements in both the low- and high-frequency regions of the cochlea.
In Aim 2 we will extend our knowledge of OAE mechanisms to the apical half of the cochlea, where mounting evidence suggests the mechanics are very different from the base. Although the apical half of the cochlea is the most important region for human speech communication, relatively little is known about its mechanical or otoacoustic responses.
In Aim 3 we will determine modes of reverse energy propagation in the cochlea by testing model predictions for standing-wave interference patterns measurable on the basilar membrane.
In Aim 4 we will synthesize our knowledge of cochlear mechanics and OAE generation through continued development of the physics-based cochlear and OAE models responsible for the hypotheses and predictions tested in the other Aims. Completion of these four interconnected Aims will significantly enhance our understanding of OAE generation mechanisms and their relationship to cochlear mechanics and tuning throughout the cochlea. In addition to the basic science they address, these Aims are directly relevant to improving the power of OAE-based hearing diagnostics and other technological applications, including pre-processors for speech-recognition and cochlear implant systems that benefit from knowledge of human cochlear tuning.

Public Health Relevance

to Public Health Our experiments and models address the mechanisms by which healthy ears generate sound. Sounds created by the ear, known as otoacoustic emissions (OAEs), serve as the basis for noninvasive clinical tests of hearing function. By increasing our understanding of how these sounds are produced within the cochlea, and how OAEs relate to other aspects of cochlear function important for human communication, the proposed work will enhance the power and interpretation of clinical hearing tests and help to improve the design of prosthetic devices such as cochlear implants.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-IFCN-F (02))
Program Officer
Miller, Roger
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
United States
Zip Code
Knudson, Inge M; Shera, Christopher A; Melcher, Jennifer R (2014) Increased contralateral suppression of otoacoustic emissions indicates a hyperresponsive medial olivocochlear system in humans with tinnitus and hyperacusis. J Neurophysiol 112:3197-208
Abdala, Carolina; Guérit, François; Luo, Ping et al. (2014) Distortion-product otoacoustic emission reflection-component delays and cochlear tuning: estimates from across the human lifespan. J Acoust Soc Am 135:1950-8
Lichtenhan, Jeffery T; Cooper, Nigel P; Guinan Jr, John J (2013) A new auditory threshold estimation technique for low frequencies: proof of concept. Ear Hear 34:42-51
Kalluri, Radha; Shera, Christopher A (2013) Measuring stimulus-frequency otoacoustic emissions using swept tones. J Acoust Soc Am 134:356-68
Shera, Christopher A; Cooper, Nigel P (2013) Basilar-membrane interference patterns from multiple internal reflection of cochlear traveling waves. J Acoust Soc Am 133:2224-39
Rasetshwane, Daniel M; Neely, Stephen T; Allen, Jont B et al. (2012) Reflectance of acoustic horns and solution of the inverse problem. J Acoust Soc Am 131:1863-73
Lichtenhan, Jeffery T (2012) Effects of low-frequency biasing on otoacoustic and neural measures suggest that stimulus-frequency otoacoustic emissions originate near the peak region of the traveling wave. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol 13:17-28
Shera, Christopher A; Olson, Elizabeth S; Guinan Jr, John J (2011) On cochlear impedances and the miscomputation of power gain. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol 12:671-6
Sisto, Renata; Moleti, Arturo; Botti, Teresa et al. (2011) Distortion products and backward-traveling waves in nonlinear active models of the cochlea. J Acoust Soc Am 129:3141-52
Joris, Philip X; Bergevin, Christopher; Kalluri, Radha et al. (2011) Frequency selectivity in Old-World monkeys corroborates sharp cochlear tuning in humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 108:17516-20

Showing the most recent 10 out of 35 publications