Stability of Auditory Steady State Responses Over Time

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Auditory steady state responses (ASSRs) are used in clinical practice for objective hearing assessments. The response is called steady state because it is assumed to be stable over time, and because it is evoked by a stimulus with a certain periodicity, which will lead to discrete frequency components that are stable in amplitude and phase over time. However, the stimuli commonly used to evoke ASSRs are also known to be able to induce loudness adaptation behaviorally. Researchers and clinicians using ASSRs assume that the response remains stable over time. This study investigates (1) the stability of ASSR amplitudes over time, within one recording, and (2) whether loudness adaptation can be reflected in ASSRs.


ASSRs were measured from 14 normal-hearing participants. The ASSRs were evoked by the stimuli that caused the most loudness adaptation in a previous behavioral study, that is, mixed-modulated sinusoids with carrier frequencies of either 500 or 2000 Hz, a modulation frequency of 40 Hz, and a low sensation level of 30 dB SL. For each carrier frequency and participant, 40 repetitions of 92 sec recordings were made. Two types of analyses were used to investigate the ASSR amplitudes over time: with the more traditionally used Fast Fourier Transform and with a novel Kalman filtering approach. Robust correlations between the ASSR amplitudes and behavioral loudness adaptation ratings were also calculated.


Overall, ASSR amplitudes were stable. Over all individual recordings, the median change of the amplitudes over time was −0.0001 μV/s. Based on group analysis, a significant but very weak decrease in amplitude over time was found, with the decrease in amplitude over time around −0.0002 μV/s. Correlation coefficients between ASSR amplitudes and behavioral loudness adaptation ratings were significant but low to moderate, with r = 0.27 and r = 0.39 for the 500 and 2000 Hz carrier frequency, respectively.


The decrease in amplitude of ASSRs over time (92 sec) is small. Consequently, it is safe to use ASSRs in clinical practice, and additional correction factors for objective hearing assessments are not needed. Because only small decreases in amplitudes were found, loudness adaptation is probably not reflected by the ASSRs.

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