Objective: To assess the accuracy of threshold estimates determined using the auditory brain stem responses (ABRs) to brief tones presented in notched noise in a group of infants and young children with normal hearing or sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL).
Design: The thresholds for ABRs to brief duration 500, 2000, and 4000 Hz tones presented in notched-noise masking were evaluated in infants and young children with normal hearing (N = 34) or SNHL (N = 54). Tone-evoked ABR thresholds were compared with behavioral thresholds obtained at follow-up audiologic assessments, for a total of 220 comparisons.
Results: ABR thresholds for the infants with bilateral normal hearing were 23.6, 12.9, and 12.6 dB nHL for 500, 2000 and 4000 Hz, respectively. Most (92 to 100%) infants with normal hearing showed ABRs to 30 dB nHL tones. Across all subjects (i.e., those with normal hearing and those with impaired hearing), high ( > or = 0.94) correlations were found between the ABR and behavioral thresholds. The mean differences between ABR (dB nHL) and behavioral (dB HL) thresholds across all subjects were 8.6, -0.4, and -4.3 dB for 500, 2000, and 4000 Hz, respectively. Overall, 98% of the ABR thresholds were within 30 dB of the behavioral thresholds, 93% were within 20 dB, and 80% were within 15 dB.
Conclusions: These threshold results for the ABR to brief tones in notched noise obtained for infants and young children are similar to those obtained in similar studies of adults. The technique may be used clinically with reasonable accuracy to estimate pure-tone behavioral thresholds in infants and young children who are referred for diagnostic threshold ABR testing.