Electrophysiological feedback on activity in the auditory pathway may potentially advance the next generation of hearing aids. Conventional electroencephalographic (EEG) systems are, however, impractical during daily life and incompatible with hearing aids. Ear-EEG is a method in which the EEG is recorded from electrodes embedded in a hearing aid like earpiece. The method therefore provides an unobtrusive way of measuring neural activity suitable for use in everyday life. This study aimed to determine whether ear-EEG could be used to estimate hearing thresholds in subjects with sensorineural hearing loss. Specifically, ear-EEG was used to determine physiological thresholds at 0.5, 1, 2, and 4 kHz using auditory steady-state response measurements. To evaluate ear-EEG in relation to current methods, thresholds were estimated from a concurrently recorded conventional scalp EEG. The threshold detection rate for ear-EEG was 20% lower than the detection rate for scalp EEG. Thresholds estimated using in-ear referenced ear-EEG were found to be elevated at an average of 5.9, 2.3, 5.6, and 1.5 dB relative to scalp thresholds at 0.5, 1, 2, and 4 kHz, respectively. No differences were found in the variance of means between in-ear ear-EEG and scalp EEG. In-ear ear-EEG, auditory steady-state response thresholds were found at 12.1 to 14.4 dB sensation level with an intersubject variation comparable to that of behavioral thresholds. Collectively, it is concluded that although further refinement of the method is needed to optimize the threshold detection rate, ear-EEG is a feasible method for hearing threshold level estimation in subjects with sensorineural hearing impairment.
- Hearing aids
- Sensorineural hearing loss
- Auditory evoked potentials
Bech Christensen, C., Hietkamp, R. K., Harte, J. M., Lunner, T., & Kidmose, P. (2018). Toward EEG-Assisted Hearing Aids: Objective Threshold Estimation Based on Ear-EEG in Subjects With Sensorineural Hearing Loss. Trends in Hearing, 22, 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1177/2331216518816203