Reasons for performing study: Deafness has been reported in horses due to a variety of causes and objective auditory assessment has been performed with brainstem auditory evoked potential testing. Evoked otoacoustic emission (OAE) tests are widely used in human patients for hearing screening, detecting partial hearing loss (including frequency-specific hearing loss) and monitoring cochlear outer hair cell function over time. OAE tests are noninvasive, quick and affordable. Two types of OAE are commonly used clinically: transient evoked OAEs (TEOAEs) and distortion product OAEs (DPOAEs). Detection of OAEs has not been reported and OAE testing has not been evaluated for auditory assessment in horses.
Objectives: To investigate whether TEOAEs and DPOAEs can be recorded in horses, and to evaluate the use of human OAE screening protocols in horses with apparently normal hearing.
Methods: Sixteen systemically healthy horses with normal behavioural responses to sound were included. OAE testing was performed during general anaesthesia using commercially available equipment and the final outcome for each ear for the TEOAE test (after a maximum of 3 runs) and the DPOAE test (after one run) were compared.
Results: TEOAEs and DPOAEs can be recorded in horses. Using the chosen TEOAE protocol, 96% of ears achieved a pass. Seventy percent of ears passed DPOAE testing, despite all of these ears passing TEOAE testing.
Conclusions: Using the chosen stimulus and analysis protocols, TEOAEs were recorded from most ears; however, a smaller proportion of ears passed the DPOAE protocol, suggesting that this may be overly stringent and require further optimisation in horses.
Potential relevance: OAE testing is rapid and easily performed in anaesthetised horses. It provides frequency-specific information about outer hair cell function, and is a promising tool for audiological assessment in the horse; however, it has not been assessed in conscious or sedated animals.