1) To examine the distribution of behavioral hearing thresholds in a group of children who had shown no click-evoked auditory brain stem response (ABR) at maximum presentation levels. 2) To describe the relationship between the 90 Hz steady-state evoked potential (SSEP) and behavioral thresholds in these subjects.
A retrospective study based on clinical findings obtained from 108 infants and young children. Each of these children had shown no recordable ABR to clicks presented at maximum levels (100 dB nHL). SSEP audiograms were obtained using AM/FM tones at the octave frequencies 250 to 4000 Hz. The results of these evoked potential assessments were compared with hearing thresholds established behaviorally.
Click-ABR assessment could not differentiate between the subjects in our sample with total hearing losses and those with useful residual hearing. Although some of the ears were anacusic, more than a quarter showed residual hearing at each of the audiometric frequencies. Furthermore, at least 10% of the behavioral thresholds at each frequency fell within the moderate/severe hearing loss range. A far closer relationship was observed between SSEP and hearing thresholds. On occasions where the SSEP was absent at maximum levels, 99.5% of the ears showed either a total loss or a behavioral threshold within 10 dB of that level. When an SSEP was obtained, the hearing threshold was typically within 5 dB of the SSEP threshold.
The results suggested that in our group of selected subjects, the SSEP technique was able to assess ears with only minimal amounts of residual hearing. Where the brevity of the acoustic click limits both its frequency specificity and its presentation level, the modulated tones used for SSEP testing allow accurate, frequency-specific assessment at high presentation levels.