Auditory steady state responses (ASSRs) to multiple air conduction (AC) stimuli modulated at ∼80 Hz have been shown to provide reasonable estimates of the behavioral audiogram. To distinguish the type of hearing loss (i.e., conductive, sensorineural, or mixed), bone conduction (BC) results are necessary. There are few BC-ASSR data, especially for individuals with hearing loss. The present studies aimed to (1) determine multiple ASSR thresholds to BC stimuli in adults with normal hearing, masker-simulated hearing loss, and sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) and (2) determine how well BC-ASSR distinguishes normal versus elevated thresholds to BC stimuli in adults with normal hearing or SNHL.
Multiple ASSR and behavioral thresholds for BC stimuli were determined in two studies. Study A assessed 16 normal-hearing adults with relatively flat threshold elevations produced by 50, 60, and 70 dB SPL AC masking noise, as well as no masking. Study B assessed 10 adults with normal hearing and 40 adults with SNHL. In both studies, the multiple (500 to 4000 Hz) ASSR stimuli were modulated between 77 and 101 Hz and varied in intensity from 0 to 50 dB HL in 10-dB steps. Stimuli were presented using a B71 bone oscillator held on the temporal bone by an elastic band while participants relaxed or slept.
Study A: Correlations (r) between behavioral and ASSR thresholds for all conditions combined were 0.77, 0.87, 0.90, and 0.87 for 500, 1000, 2000, and 4000 Hz, respectively. ASSR minus behavioral threshold difference scores for all frequencies combined for the no-masker, 50, 60, and 70 dB SPL masker conditions were 14.3 ± 9.2, 12.1 ± 10.4, 12.7 ± 7.7, and 11.4 ± 8.1 dB, respectively. Study B: The difference scores for 500, 1000, 2000, and 4000 Hz were, on average, 15.7 ± 12.3, 10.3 ± 10.7, 9.7 ± 10.3, and 5.7 ± 7.9 dB, respectively, with correlations of 0.73, 0.84, 0.87, and 0.94 for the normal-hearing and SNHL groups combined. The ASSR minus behavioral difference scores were significantly larger for 500 Hz and significantly smaller for 4000 Hz compared with 1000 and 2000 Hz. Across all frequencies, the BC-ASSR correctly classified 89% of thresholds as “normal” or “elevated” (92% correct for 1000, 2000, and 4000 Hz).
The threshold difference scores and correlations in individuals with SNHL are similar to those in normal listeners with simulated SNHL. These difference scores are also similar to those shown by previous studies for the AC-ASSR in individuals with SNHL, at least for 1000 to 4000 Hz. The BC-ASSR provides a reasonably good estimate of BC behavioral threshold in adults, especially between 1000 and 4000 Hz. Further research is required in infants with hearing loss.