, Volume 194, Issue 7, pp 665-683
Date: 24 May 2008

Otoacoustic emissions in humans, birds, lizards, and frogs: evidence for multiple generation mechanisms

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Many non-mammalian ears lack physiological features considered integral to the generation of otoacoustic emissions in mammals, including basilar-membrane traveling waves and hair-cell somatic motility. To help elucidate the mechanisms of emission generation, this study systematically measured and compared evoked emissions in all four classes of tetrapod vertebrates using identical stimulus paradigms. Overall emission levels are largest in the lizard and frog species studied and smallest in the chicken. Emission levels in humans, the only examined species with somatic hair cell motility, were intermediate. Both geckos and frogs exhibit substantially higher levels of high-order intermodulation distortion. Stimulus frequency emission phase-gradient delays are longest in humans but are at least 1 ms in all species. Comparisons between stimulus-frequency emission and distortion-product emission phase gradients for low stimulus levels indicate that representatives from all classes except frog show evidence for two distinct generation mechanisms analogous to the reflection- and distortion-source (i.e., place- and wave-fixed) mechanisms evident in mammals. Despite morphological differences, the results suggest the role of a scaling-symmetric traveling wave in chicken emission generation, similar to that in mammals, and perhaps some analog in the gecko.