Brief for publication of Report of an IES on the usefulness of Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) Testing in Occupational Health Surveillance

HSE is interested in exploring options to improve the standards of noise health surveillance to assist dutyholders in meeting the aspirations of a robust occupational health surveillance model that enables early detection of signs or symptoms of ill health and useful and timely data that can enable preventative actions in reducing irreversible noise induced hearing damage.

One of the most promising advances in audiological testing has been the discovery of otoacoustic emissions (OAE) testing. This method has widespread application as a simple, non-invasive, test for hearing defects in newborn babies and in children who are too young to cooperate in conventional hearing tests. Many western countries now have national programmes for the universal hearing screening of newborn babies.

OAEs are responses generated by outer hair cells of the inner ear when stimulated by sound transmitted via a small microphone placed in the ear canal via an ear plug. OAEs have been widely shown to be depressed by noise exposure. HSE are interested in working closely with researchers, manufacturers, the audiological and occupational health community in fully exploring the potential of this method for application in occupational health surveillance.

HSE organised an international expert symposium on the usefulness of OAE testing in occupational health surveillance in February 2011. This event managed to attract the attention of worldwide leading researchers and practitioners in this field.

The aims of the event were;

  • to discuss the potential of OAE for use in occupational health surveillance,
  • to explore the current scientific position,
  • to discuss the barriers involved in advocating this new method,
  • identify the gaps in understanding and
  • decide where do we go next.

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Updated 2019-11-21