The purpose of this article is to conduct an evidence-based systematic review on the accuracy of pure-tone or otoacoustic emission (OAE) screening for identifying hearing loss in preschool- and school-age children.


A systematic search of the literature published between 1975 and 2013 was conducted. Articles meeting the selection criteria were critically appraised for quality. Selection criteria required that behavioral thresholds be measured in children failing the screen and in at least a subset of children passing the screen. Sensitivity and specificity were used to calculate positive and negative likelihood ratios that could be compared between instruments.


Eighteen studies were included in the final analysis. There was considerable variability among studies on stimulus levels, response criteria, and definition of hearing loss. Approximately half of positive and negative likelihood ratio pairs for OAEs (52%) and pure-tone screening (45%) were considered suggestive or informative for identifying hearing loss.


Both pure-tone and OAE screening can identify hearing loss in preschool- and school-age children. Studies that compared both tools in the same population concluded that pure-tone screening had higher sensitivity than OAE screening and thus was considered the preferred tool. Future research should incorporate standard stimulus levels, response criteria, and definitions of hearing loss.

References marked with an asterisk indicate studies included in the EBSR.


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