Binaural Interaction Effects of 30–50 Hz Auditory Steady State Responses

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Objectives:Auditory stimuli modulated by modulation frequencies within the 30 to 50 Hz region evoke auditory steady state responses (ASSRs) with high signal to noise ratios in adults, and can be used to determine the frequency-specific hearing thresholds of adults who are unable to give behavioral feedback reliably. To measure ASSRs as efficiently as possible a multiple stimulus paradigm can be used, stimulating both ears simultaneously. The response strength of 30 to 50Hz ASSRs is, however, affected when both ears are stimulated simultaneously. The aim of the present study is to gain insight in the measurement efficiency of 30 to 50 Hz ASSRs evoked with a 2-ear stimulation paradigm, by systematically investigating the binaural interaction effects of 30 to 50 Hz ASSRs in normal-hearing adults.Design:ASSRs were obtained with a 64-channel EEG system in 23 normal-hearing adults. All participants participated in one diotic, multiple dichotic, and multiple monaural conditions. Stimuli consisted of a modulated one-octave noise band, centered at 1 kHz, and presented at 70 dB SPL. The diotic condition contained 40 Hz modulated stimuli presented to both ears. In the dichotic conditions, the modulation frequency of the left ear stimulus was kept constant at 40 Hz, while the stimulus at the right ear was either the unmodulated or modulated carrier. In case of the modulated carrier, the modulation frequency varied between 30 and 50 Hz in steps of 2 Hz across conditions. The monaural conditions consisted of all stimuli included in the diotic and dichotic conditions.Results:Modulation frequencies ≥36 Hz resulted in prominent ASSRs in all participants for the monaural conditions. A significant enhancement effect was observed (average: ~3 dB) in the diotic condition, whereas a significant reduction effect was observed in the dichotic conditions. There was no distinct effect of the temporal characteristics of the stimuli on the amount of reduction. The attenuation was in 33% of the cases >3 dB for ASSRs evoked with modulation frequencies ≥40 Hz and 50% for ASSRs evoked with modulation frequencies ≤36 Hz.Conclusions:Binaural interaction effects as observed in the diotic condition are similar to the binaural interaction effects of middle latency responses as reported in the literature, suggesting that these responses share a same underlying mechanism. Our data also indicated that 30 to 50 Hz ASSRs are attenuated when presented dichotically and that this attenuation is independent of the stimulus characteristics as used in the present study. These findings are important as they give insight in how binaural interaction affects the measurement efficiency. The 2-ear stimulation paradigm of the present study was, for the most optimal modulation frequencies (i.e., ≥40 Hz), more efficient than a 1-ear sequential stimulation paradigm in 66% of the cases.

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