J Am Acad Audiol 2020; 31(06): 371-383
DOI: 10.3766/jaaa.19030
Research Article
American Academy of Audiology. All rights reserved. (2020) American Academy of Audiology

Determinants of the Audiometric Notch at 4000 and 6000 Hz in Young Adults

Ishan Sunilkumar Bhatt
1  Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ
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03. August 2020 (online)


Background Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is often characterized by the presence of an audiometric notch at 3000-6000 Hz in a behavioral audiogram. The audiometric notch is widely used to investigate NIHL in children and young adults. However, the determinants of the audiometric notch in young adults largely remain unknown.

Purpose The study aimed to investigate the determinants of the audiometric notch in young adults.

Research Design A cross-sectional design was adopted for the study.

Study Sample A sample of 124 adults (38 males and 86 females) aged 18-35 years with normal otoscopic and tympanometric findings was recruited.

Data Collection and Analysis Hearing thresholds and real-ear sound pressure levels (RESPLs) were obtained with calibrated ER-3A (Etymotic Research, Elk Grove Village, IL) andTDH-50P receivers (Telephonics, Farmingdale, NY). Distortion-product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs) were used to evaluate the cochlear function. The external auditory canal (EAC) length was measured using the acoustical method. Noise exposure background (NEB) was estimated using the Noise Exposure Questionnaire. The notched audiograms were identified using: Phillips, Coles, and Niskar criteria.

Results The prevalence of notched audiograms was substantially higher for TDH-50P supra-aural receivers than for ER-3A insert receivers. RESPLs at 6000 and 8000 Hz were the major predictors of notched audiograms for TDH-50P receivers. These predictors explained around 45% of the variance in the notched audiograms. The notched audiograms obtained with TDH-50P receivers showed no association with NEB. Individuals with notched audiograms measured using TDH-50P did not show convincing evidence of cochlear dysfunction as assessed by DPOAEs. Individuals with notched audiograms obtained with TDH-50P receivers revealed an average of shorter EAC and a poorer hearing threshold at 6000 Hz.

Conclusions The calibration error in the RESPLs at 6000 and 8000 Hz that are likely to be influenced by the shorter EAC was the major determinant of the notched audiograms when the supra-aural transducers were used to measure hearing thresholds. Therefore, the supra-aural receivers should not be used to estimate the prevalence of NIHL in children and young adults when the less restrictive notch identification criteria are used to identify NIHL. Real-ear calibration techniques that are least influenced by the standing waves in the EAC should be preferred when investigating the prevalence of and risk factors for NIHL in young adults.

Supplementary Material