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J Acoust Soc Am. 2011 May;129(5):3115-22. doi: 10.1121/1.3569732.

Breaking away: violation of distortion emission phase-frequency invariance at low frequencies.

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  • 1Hugh Knowles Center, Roxelyn and Richard Pepper Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA.


The phase versus frequency function of the distortion product otoacoustic emission (DPOAE) at 2f(1) - f(2) is approximately invariant at frequencies above 1.5 kHz in human subjects when recorded with a constant f(2)/f(1). However, a secular break from this invariance has been observed at lower frequencies where the phase-gradient becomes markedly steeper. Apical DPOAEs, such as 2f(1) - f(2), are known to contain contributions from multiple sources. This experiment asked whether the phase behavior of the ear canal DPOAE at low frequencies is driven by the phase of the component from the distortion product (DP) region at 2f(1) - f(2), which exhibits rapid phase accumulation. Placing a suppressor tone close in the frequency to 2f(1) - f(2) reduced the contribution of this component to the ear canal DPOAE in normal-hearing adult human ears. When the contribution of this component was reduced, the phase behavior of the ear canal DPOAE was not altered, suggesting that the breaking from DPOAE phase invariance at low frequencies is an outcome of apical-basal differences in cochlear mechanics. The deviation from DPOAE phase invariance appears to be a manifestation of the breaking from approximate scaling symmetry in the human cochlear apex.

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