Background: Click-evoked auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) are a valuable tool for probing auditory system function and development. Although it has long been thought that the human auditory brainstem is fully mature by age 2 yr, recent evidence indicates a prolonged developmental trajectory.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the time course of ABR maturation in a preschool population and fill a gap in the knowledge of development.
Research design: Using a cross-sectional design, we investigated the effect of age on absolute latencies, interwave latencies, and amplitudes (waves I, III, V) of the click-evoked ABR.
Study sample: A total of 71 preschoolers (ages 3.12-4.99 yr) participated in the study. All had normal peripheral auditory function and IQ.
Data collection and analysis: ABRs to a rarefaction click stimulus presented at 31/sec and 80 dB SPL (73 dB nHL) were recorded monaurally using clinically-standard recording and filtering procedures while the participant sat watching a movie. Absolute latencies, interwave latencies, and amplitudes were then correlated to age.
Results: Developmental changes were restricted to absolute latencies. Wave V latency decreased significantly with age, whereas wave I and III latencies remained stable, even in this restricted age range.
Conclusions: The ABR does not remain static after age 2 yr, as seen by a systematic decrease in wave V latency between ages 3 and 5 yr. This finding suggests that the human brainstem has a continued developmental time course during the preschool years. Latency changes in the age 3-5 yr range should be considered when using ABRs as a metric of hearing health.Spitzer_et_al_JAAA_2015