Acoustic Reflexes in Normal-Hearing Adults, Typically Developing Children, and Children with Suspected Auditory Processing Disorder: Thresholds, Real-Ear Corrections, and the Role of Static Compliance on Estimates

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Abstract

Background:

Previous studies have suggested elevated reflex thresholds in children with auditory processing disorders (APDs). However, some aspects of the child's ear such as ear canal volume and static compliance of the middle ear could possibly affect the measurements of reflex thresholds and thus impact its interpretation. Sound levels used to elicit reflexes in a child's ear may be higher than predicted by calibration in a standard 2-cc coupler, and lower static compliance could make visualization of very small changes in impedance at threshold difficult. For this purpose, it is important to evaluate threshold data with consideration of differences between children and adults.

Purpose:

A set of studies were conducted. The first compared reflex thresholds obtained using standard clinical procedures in children with suspected APD to that of typically developing children and adults to test the replicability of previous studies. The second study examined the impact of ear canal volume on estimates of reflex thresholds by applying real-ear corrections. Lastly, the relationship between static compliance and reflex threshold estimates was explored.

Research Design:

The research is a set of case-control studies with a repeated measures design.

Study Sample:

The first study included data from 20 normal-hearing adults, 28 typically developing children, and 66 children suspected of having an APD. The second study included 28 normal-hearing adults and 30 typically developing children.

Data Collection and Analysis:

In the first study, crossed and uncrossed reflex thresholds were measured in 5-dB step size. Reflex thresholds were analyzed using repeated measures analysis of variance (RM-ANOVA). In the second study, uncrossed reflex thresholds, real-ear correction, ear canal volume, and static compliance were measured. Reflex thresholds were measured using a 1-dB step size. The effect of real-ear correction and static compliance on reflex threshold was examined using RM-ANOVA and Pearson correlation coefficient, respectively.

Results:

Study 1 replicated previous studies showing elevated reflex thresholds in many children with suspected APD when compared to data from adults using standard clinical procedures, especially in the crossed condition. The thresholds measured in children with suspected APD tended to be higher than those measured in the typically developing children. There were no significant differences between the typically developing children and adults. However, when real-ear calibrated stimulus levels were used, it was found that children's thresholds were elicited at higher levels than in the adults. A significant relationship between reflex thresholds and static compliance was found in the adult data, showing a trend for higher thresholds in ears with lower static compliance, but no such relationship was found in the data from the children.

Conclusions:

This study suggests that reflex measures in children should be adjusted for real-ear-tocoupler differences before interpretation. The data in children with suspected APD support previous studies suggesting abnormalities in reflex thresholds. The lack of correlation between threshold and static compliance estimates in children as was observed in the adults may suggest a nonmechanical explanation for age and clinically related effects.

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