Age-Related Changes in Binaural Interaction at Brainstem Level

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Age-related hearing loss hampers the ability to understand speech in adverse listening conditions. This is attributed to a complex interaction of changes in the peripheral and central auditory system. One aspect that may deteriorate across the lifespan is binaural interaction. The present study investigates binaural interaction at the level of the auditory brainstem. It is hypothesized that brainstem binaural interaction deteriorates with advancing age.


Forty-two subjects of various age participated in the study. Auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) were recorded using clicks and 500 Hz tone-bursts. ABRs were elicited by monaural right, monaural left, and binaural stimulation. Binaural interaction was investigated in two ways. First, grand averages of the binaural interaction component were computed for each age group. Second, wave V characteristics of the binaural ABR were compared with those of the summed left and right ABRs.


Binaural interaction in the click ABR was demonstrated by shorter latencies and smaller amplitudes in the binaural compared with the summed monaural responses. For 500 Hz tone-burst ABR, no latency differences were found. However, amplitudes were significantly smaller in the binaural than summed monaural condition. An age-effect was found for 500 Hz tone-burst, but not for click ABR.


Brainstem binaural interaction seems to decline with age. Interestingly, these changes seem to be stimulus-dependent.

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