Heightened OAEs in young adult musicians: Influence of current noise exposure and training recency.

TitleHeightened OAEs in young adult musicians: Influence of current noise exposure and training recency.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2024
AuthorsMain M, Skoe E
JournalHear Res
Date Published2024 Feb
KeywordsAuditory Threshold, Cochlea, Deafness, Hearing Loss, Noise-Induced, Hearing Tests, Humans, Music, Noise, Otoacoustic Emissions, Spontaneous, Young Adult

Otoacoustic emissions (OAEs) are a non-invasive metric of cochlear function. Studies of OAEs in musicians have yielded mixed results, ranging from evidence of diminished OAEs in musicians-suggesting noise-induced hearing loss-to no difference when compared to non-musicians, or even a trend for stronger OAEs in musicians. The goal of this study was to use a large sample of college students with normal hearing (n = 160) to compare OAE SNRs in musicians and non-musicians and to explore potential effects of training recency and noise exposure on OAEs in these cohorts. The musician cohort included both active musicians (who at the time of enrollment practiced at least weekly) and past musicians (who had at least 6 years of training). All participants completed a questionnaire about recent noise exposure (previous 12 months), and a subset of participants (71 musicians and 15 non-musicians) wore a personal noise dosimeter for one week to obtain a more nuanced and objective measure of exposure to assess how different exposure levels may affect OAEs before the emergence of a clinically significant hearing loss. OAEs were tested using both transient-evoked OAEs (TEOAEs) and distortion-product OAEs (DPOAEs). As predicted from the literature, musicians experienced significantly higher noise levels than non-musicians based on both subjective (self-reported) and objective measures. Yet we found stronger TEOAEs and DPOAEs in musicians compared to non-musicians in the ∼1-5 kHz range. Comparisons between past and active musicians suggest that enhanced cochlear function in young adult musicians does not require active, ongoing musical practice. Although there were no significant relations between OAEs and noise exposure as measured by dosimetry or questionnaire, active musicians had weaker DPOAEs than past musicians when the entire DPOAE frequency range was considered (up to ∼16 kHz), consistent with a subclinical noise-induced hearing loss that only becomes apparent when active musicians are contrasted with a cohort of individuals with comparable training but without the ongoing risks of noise exposure. Our findings suggest, therefore, that separate norms should be developed for musicians for earlier detection of incipient hearing loss. Potential explanations for enhanced cochlear function in musicians include pre-existing (inborn or demographic) differences, training-related enhancements of cochlear function (e.g., upregulation of prestin, stronger efferent feedback mechanisms), or a combination thereof. Further studies are needed to determine if OAE enhancements offer musicians protection against damage caused by noise exposure.

Alternate JournalHear Res
PubMed ID38141520
PubMed Central IDPMC10843712
Grant ListR01 AG075271 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States