An otoacoustic emission (OAE) is a sound which is generated from within the inner ear. Having been predicted by Thomas Gold in 1948, its existence was first demonstrated experimentally by David Kemp in 1978 and otoacoustic emissions have since been shown to arise through a number of different cellular and mechanical causes within the inner ear. Studies have shown that OAEs disappear after the inner ear has been damaged, so OAEs are often used in the laboratory and the clinic as a measure of inner ear health.
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In conjunction with audiometric testing, OAE testing can be completed to determine changes in the responses. Studies have found that exposure to noise can cause a decline in OAE responses. In a study, industrial workers who were exposed to 84.5 dBA of noise were compared to workers who were exposed to 53.2 dBA of noise by considering hearing thresholds and OAEs before and after 5 days of work. This study revealed that hearing thresholds and OAE results were significantly lower among the workers who were exposed to higher levels of noise.