Aging alters the perception and physiological representation of frequency: evidence from human frequency-following response recordings

Hear Res. 2010 Jun 1;264(1-2):48-55. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2009.11.010. Epub 2009 Nov 26.


Older adults, even with clinically normal hearing sensitivity, have auditory perceptual deficits relative to their younger counterparts. This difficulty may in part, be related to a decline in the neural representation of frequency. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of age on behavioral and physiological measures of frequency representation. Thirty two adults (ages 22-77), with hearing thresholds 25 dB HL at octave frequencies 0.25-8.0 kHz, participated in this experiment. Frequency discrimination difference limens (FDLs) were obtained at 500 and 1000 Hz using a two-interval, two-alternative forced choice procedure. Linear regression analyses showed significant declines in FDLs at both frequencies as age increased. Frequency-following responses (FFRs) were elicited by 500 and 1000 Hz tonebursts, as well as at frequencies within and outside those FDLs. Linear regression of FFR phase coherence and FFR amplitude at frequencies at and slightly below 1000 Hz showed significant decreases as age increased. Therefore, pitch discrimination, as measured by FDLs, and neural representation of frequency, as reflected by FFR, declined as age increased. Although perception and neural representation concurrently declined, one was not predictive of the other.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology*
  • Auditory Threshold
  • Comprehension
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pitch Discrimination*
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Signal Detection, Psychological*
  • Speech Perception*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult