Optimizing Parameters for Using the Parallel Auditory Brainstem Response to Quickly Estimate Hearing Thresholds

Melissa J. Polonenko, Ross K. Maddox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objectives: Timely assessments are critical to providing early intervention and better hearing and spoken language outcomes for children with hearing loss. To facilitate faster diagnostic hearing assessments in infants, the authors developed the parallel auditory brainstem response (pABR), which presents randomly timed trains of tone pips at five frequencies to each ear simultaneously. The pABR yields high-quality waveforms that are similar to the standard, single-frequency serial ABR but in a fraction of the recording time. While well-documented for standard ABRs, it is yet unknown how presentation rate and level interact to affect responses collected in parallel. Furthermore, the stimuli are yet to be calibrated to perceptual thresholds. Therefore, this study aimed to determine the optimal range of parameters for the pABR and to establish the normative stimulus level correction values for the ABR stimuli. Design: Two experiments were completed, each with a group of 20 adults (18-35 years old) with normal-hearing thresholds (≤20 dB HL) from 250 to 8000 Hz. First, pABR electroencephalographic (EEG) responses were recorded for six stimulation rates and two intensities. The changes in component wave V amplitude and latency were analyzed, as well as the time required for all responses to reach a criterion signal-to-noise ratio of 0 dB. Second, behavioral thresholds were measured for pure tones and for the pABR stimuli at each rate to determine the correction factors that relate the stimulus level in dB peSPL to perceptual thresholds in dB nHL. Results: The pABR showed some adaptation with increased stimulation rate. A wide range of rates yielded robust responses in under 15 minutes, but 40 Hz was the optimal singular presentation rate. Extending the analysis window to include later components of the response offered further time-saving advantages for the temporally broader responses to low-frequency tone pips. The perceptual thresholds to pABR stimuli changed subtly with rate, giving a relatively similar set of correction factors to convert the level of the pABR stimuli from dB peSPL to dB nHL. Conclusions: The optimal stimulation rate for the pABR is 40 Hz but using multiple rates may prove useful. Perceptual thresholds that subtly change across rate allow for a testing paradigm that easily transitions between rates, which may be useful for quickly estimating thresholds for different configurations of hearing loss. These optimized parameters facilitate expediency and effectiveness of the pABR to estimate hearing thresholds in a clinical setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)646-658
Number of pages13
JournalEar and hearing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 28 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Assessment
  • Auditory brainstem response
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked potentials
  • Objective audiometry


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