Auditory Brainstem Response Detection Using Machine Learning: A Comparison With Statistical Detection Methods

Ear Hear. 2022 May/Jun;43(3):949-960. doi: 10.1097/AUD.0000000000001151.


Objectives: The primary objective of this study was to train and test machine learning algorithms to be able to detect accurately whether EEG data contains an auditory brainstem response (ABR) or not and recommend suitable machine learning methods. In addition, the performance of the best machine learning algorithm was compared with that of prominent statistical detection methods.

Design: Four machine learning algorithms were trained and evaluated using nested k-fold cross-validation: a random forest, a convolutional long short-term memory network, a stacked ensemble, and a multilayer perceptron. The best method was evaluated on a separate test set and compared with conventional detection methods: Fsp, Fmp, q-sample uniform scores test, and Hotelling's T2 test. The models were trained and tested on simulated data that were generated based on recorded ABRs collected from 12 normal-hearing participants and no-stimulus EEG data from 15 participants. Simulation allowed the ground truth of the data ("response present" or "response absent") to be known.

Results: The sensitivity of the best machine learning algorithm, a stacked ensemble, was significantly greater than that of the conventional detection methods evaluated. The stacked ensemble, evaluated using a bootstrap approach, consistently achieved a high and stable level of specificity across ensemble sizes.

Conclusions: The stacked ensemble model presented was more effective than conventional statistical ABR detection methods and the alternative machine learning approaches tested. The stacked ensemble detection method may have potential both in automated ABR screening devices as well as in evoked potential software, assisting clinicians in making decisions regarding a patient's ABR threshold. Further assessment of the model's generalizability using a large cohort of subject recorded data, including participants of different ages and hearing status, is a recommended next step.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem* / physiology
  • Hearing Tests*
  • Humans
  • Machine Learning