Distortion-product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs) emerge when presenting two primary tones with different frequencies f1 and f2 to the cochlea and are commonly used in diagnosis and research to evaluate the functional state of the cochlea. Optimal primary-tone stimulus levels accounting for the different level dependencies of the traveling-wave amplitudes of the two primary tones near the f2-tonotopic place on the basilar membrane are often used to maximize DPOAE amplitudes. However, parameters defining the optimal levels can be affected by wave interference between the nonlinear-distortion and coherent-reflection components of the DPOAE. Here, the components were separated in the time domain using a pulsed stimulus paradigm and optimal levels determined. Based on the amplitude dependence of the nonlinear-distortion components on primary-tone stimulus levels, level parameters yielding maximum DPOAE amplitudes were derived for six normal-hearing adults and compared to data recorded with continuous two-tone stimulation. The level parameters resulting from analysis of the nonlinear-distortion components show dependence on stimulus frequency and small standard deviations. DPOAE input/output functions derived for optimal levels exhibit larger slopes, wider dynamic range and less variability across subjects than those derived for conventional stimulus and analysis conditions, potentially increasing their reliability and sensitivity for assessing cochlea function.
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