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J Acoust Soc Am. 2014 Feb;135(2):754-65. doi: 10.1121/1.4861841.

Aging of the medial olivocochlear reflex and associations with speech perception.

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House Research Institute, Division of Communication and Auditory Neuroscience, 2100 West Third Street, Los Angeles, California 90057.
Knowles Hearing Center, Roxelyn and Richard Pepper Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208.


The medial olivocochlear reflex (MOCR) modulates cochlear amplifier gain and is thought to facilitate the detection of signals in noise. High-resolution distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs) were recorded in teens, young, middle-aged, and elderly adults at moderate levels using primary tones swept from 0.5 to 4 kHz with and without a contralateral acoustic stimulus (CAS) to elicit medial efferent activation. Aging effects on magnitude and phase of the 2f1-f2 DPOAE and on its components were examined, as was the link between speech-in-noise performance and MOCR strength. Results revealed a mild aging effect on the MOCR through middle age for frequencies below 1.5 kHz. Additionally, positive correlations were observed between strength of the MOCR and performance on select measures of speech perception parsed into features. The elderly group showed unexpected results including relatively large effects of CAS on DPOAE, and CAS-induced increases in DPOAE fine structure as well as increases in the amplitude and phase accumulation of DPOAE reflection components. Contamination of MOCR estimates by middle ear muscle contractions cannot be ruled out in the oldest subjects. The findings reiterate that DPOAE components should be unmixed when measuring medial efferent effects to better consider and understand these potential confounds.

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