Objectives: The goal of this study was to investigate the use of transient-evoked otoacoustic emissions (TEOAEs) and middle ear absorbance measurements to monitor auditory function in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) receiving ototoxic medications. TEOAEs were elicited with a chirp stimulus using an extended bandwidth (0.71 to 8 kHz) to measure cochlear function at higher frequencies than traditional TEOAEs. Absorbance over a wide bandwidth (0.25 to 8 kHz) provides information on middle ear function. The combination of these time-efficient measurements has the potential to identify early signs of ototoxic hearing loss.
Design: A longitudinal study design was used to monitor the hearing of 91 patients with CF (median age = 25 years; age range = 15 to 63 years) who received known ototoxic medications (e.g., tobramycin) to prevent or treat bacterial lung infections. Results were compared to 37 normally hearing young adults (median age = 32.5 years; age range = 18 to 65 years) without a history of CF or similar treatments. Clinical testing included 226-Hz tympanometry, pure-tone air-conduction threshold testing from 0.25 to 16 kHz and bone conduction from 0.25 to 4 kHz. Experimental testing included wideband absorbance at ambient and tympanometric peak pressure and TEOAEs in three stimulus conditions: at ambient pressure and at tympanometric peak pressure using a chirp stimulus with constant incident pressure level across frequency and at ambient pressure using a chirp stimulus with constant absorbed sound power across frequency.
Results: At the initial visit, behavioral audiometric results indicated that 76 of the 157 ears (48%) from patients with CF had normal hearing, whereas 81 of these ears (52%) had sensorineural hearing loss for at least one frequency. Seven ears from four patients had a confirmed behavioral change in hearing threshold for >=3 visits during study participation. Receiver operating characteristic curve analyses demonstrated that all three TEOAE conditions were useful for distinguishing CF ears with normal hearing from ears with sensorineural hearing loss, with an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve values ranging from 0.78 to 0.92 across methods for frequency bands from 2.8 to 8 kHz. Case studies are presented to illustrate the relationship between changes in audiometric thresholds, TEOAEs, and absorbance across study visits. Absorbance measures permitted identification of potential middle ear dysfunction at 5.7 kHz in an ear that exhibited a temporary hearing loss.
Conclusions: The joint use of TEOAEs and absorbance has the potential to explain fluctuations in audiometric thresholds due to changes in cochlear function, middle ear function, or both. These findings are encouraging for the joint use of TEOAE and wideband absorbance objective tests for monitoring ototoxicity, particularly, in patients who may be too ill for behavioral hearing tests. Additional longitudinal studies are needed in a larger number of CF patients receiving ototoxic drugs to further evaluate the clinical utility of these measures in an ototoxic monitoring program.
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