There are a number of ways to identify a hearing loss. Each test is used for different people and reasons. Your ear is made up of three parts—the outer, the middle, and the inner ear. The OAE test is used to find out how well your inner ear, or cochlea, works. It measures otoacoustic emissions, or OAEs. These are sounds given off by the inner ear when responding to a sound. There are hair cells in the inner ear that respond to sound by vibrating. The vibration produces a very quiet sound that echoes back into the middle ear. This sound is the OAE that is measured.
If you have normal hearing, you will produce OAEs. If your hearing loss is greater than 25–30 decibels (dB), you will not produce these very soft sounds.
This test can also show if there is a blockage in your outer or middle ear. If there is a blockage, no sounds will be able to get through to the inner ear. This means that there will be no vibration or sounds that come back.
The OAE machine works by placing a small earphone or probe into the ear canal. The probe emits sounds into the ear and measures the sounds that comes back. The student does not need to do or say anything during the test. The person administering the test can see the results on the monitor screen.
The cost of the OAE machine was $4,447.56, all paid for by the Las Cruces Sunrise Lions Club. The OAE machine would be available for trained school nurses to use on all students who are hard to test within the school district. This ability would save parents time and money by not having to have their child refer to their provider or hearing specialist for a standard test the nurse could perform at school.
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