Maturation and aging of the human cochlea: A view through the DPOAE looking glass

Carolina Abdala*, Sumitrajit Dhar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Cochlear function changes throughout the human lifespan. Distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs) were recorded in 156 ears to examine these changes and speculate as to their mechanistic underpinnings. DPOAEs were analyzed within the context of current OAE generation theory, which recognizes distinct emission mechanisms. Seven age groups including premature newborns through senescent adults were tested with a swept-tone DPOAE protocol to examine magnitude and phase features of both the mixed DPOAE and individual distortion and reflection components. Results indicate (1) 6-8-month-old infants have the most robust DPOAE and component levels for frequencies 91.5 kHz; (2) older adults show a substantial reduction in DPOAE and distortioncomponent levels combined with a smaller drop in reflection-component levels; (3) all age groups manifest a violation of distortion phase invariance at frequencies below 1.5 kHz consistent with a secular break in cochlear scaling; the apical phase delay is markedly longer in newborns; and (4) phase slope of reflection emissions is most shallow in the older adults. Combined findings suggest that basilar membrane motion in the apical half of the cochlea is immature at birth and that the cochlea of senescent adults shows reduced nonlinearity and relatively shallow reflectioncomponent phase slope, which can be interpreted to suggest degraded tuning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-421
Number of pages19
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Aging
  • Cochlear scaling
  • Distortion
  • Maturation
  • Otoacoustic emissions
  • Reflection
  • Tuning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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