Speech-Evoked Envelope Following Responses in Children and Adults

J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2022 Oct 17;65(10):4009-4023. doi: 10.1044/2022_JSLHR-22-00156. Epub 2022 Sep 21.


Purpose: Envelope following responses (EFRs) could be useful for objectively evaluating audibility of speech in children who are unable to participate in routine clinical tests. However, relative to adults, the characteristics of EFRs elicited by frequency-specific speech and their utility in predicting audibility in children are unknown.

Method: EFRs were elicited by the first (F1) and second and higher formants (F2+) of male-spoken vowels /u/ and /i/ and by fricatives /ʃ/ and /s/ in the token /suʃi/ presented at 15, 35, 55, 65, and 75 dB SPL. The F1, F2+, and fricatives were low-, mid-, and high-frequency dominant, respectively. EFRs were recorded between the vertex and the nape from twenty-three 6- to 17-year-old children and 21 young adults with normal hearing. Sensation levels of stimuli were estimated based on behavioral thresholds.

Results: In children, amplitude decreased with age for /ʃ/-elicited EFRs but remained stable for low- and mid-frequency stimuli. As a group, EFR amplitude and phase coherence did not differ from that of adults. EFR sensitivity (proportion of audible stimuli detected) and specificity (proportion of inaudible stimuli not detected) did not vary between children and adults. Consistent with previous work, EFR sensitivity increased with stimulus frequency and level. The type of statistical indicator used for EFR detection did not influence accuracy in children.

Conclusions: Adultlike EFRs in 6- to 17-year-old typically developing children suggest mature envelope encoding for low- and mid-frequency stimuli. EFR sensitivity and specificity in children, when considering a wide range of stimulus levels and audibility, are ~77% and ~92%, respectively.

Supplemental material: https://doi.org/10.23641/asha.21136171.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Hearing Tests
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Speech Perception* / physiology
  • Speech*
  • Young Adult