Communication Sciences and Disorders Publications


Auditory brainstem responses in children with auditory processing disorder

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Journal of the American Academy of Audiology





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Background: The ASHA recommends including electrophysiological measures in an auditory processing disorder (APD) assessment battery, but few audiologists do so, potentially because of limited published evidence for its utility. Purpose: This study compared the auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) of children with APD with age-matched children and adults. Study Sample: This study retrospectively examined the records of 108 children suspected of APD (sAPD) who had click-evoked ABRs recorded as part of their clinical assessment. Twenty adults and 22 typically developing (TD) children were recruited as controls. Data collection and Analysis: Click-evoked ABRs were recorded at slow (13.3 clicks/sec) and faster (57.7 clicks/sec) stimulation rates. ABRs were analyzed using typical clinical measures (latencies and interpeak intervals for waves I, III, and V) and using a model proposed by Ponton et al that offered a more detailed analysis of axonal conduction time and synaptic transmission delay. Results: Both clinical measures and the Ponton model analysis showed no significant differences between TD children and adults. Children sAPD showed absolute latencies that were significantly prolonged when compared with adults but not when compared with TD children. But individual children sAPD showed clinically significant delays (.2 standard deviations of TD children’s data). Examination of responses delineating axonal versus synaptic transmission showed significant delays in synaptic transmission in the group of children sAPD in comparison to TD children and adults. These results suggest that a significant portion of children with listening difficulties showed evidence of reduced or atypical brainstem functioning. Examining the responses for axonal and synaptic delays revealed evidence of a synaptic pattern of abnormalities in a significant portion (37.03%) of children sAPD. Such observations could provide objective evidence of factors potentially contributing to listening difficulties that are frequently reported in children identified with APD. Conclusions: Children sAPD often showed abnormalities in the ABR, suggesting a neurophysiologic origin of their reported difficulties, frequently originating at or before the first synapse. This study provides supportive evidence for the value of click-evoked ABRs in comprehensive auditory processing assessment batteries.

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