Sensory-based learning disability: Insights from brainstem processing of speech sounds

Karen Banai*, Daniel Abrams, Nina Kraus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Speech-evoked auditory brainstem responses (speech-ABR) provide a reliable marker of learning disability in a substantial subgroup of individuals with language-based learning problems (LDs). Here we review work describing the properties of the speech-ABR in typically developing children and in children with LD. We also review studies on the relationships between speech-ABR and the commonly used click-ABR, and between speech-ABR and auditory processing at the level of the cortex. In a critical examination of previously published data, we conclude that as many as 40% of LDs have abnormal speech-ABRs and that these individuals are also likely to exhibit abnormal cortical processing. Yet, the profile of learning problems these individuals exhibit is unspecific. Leaving open the question of causality, these data suggest that speech-ABR can be used to identify a large sub-population of LDs, those with abnormal auditory physiological function. Further studies are required to determine the functional relationships among abnormal speech-ABR, speech perception, and the pattern of literacy-related and cognitive deficits in LD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)524-532
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Audiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2007


  • ABR
  • AEP
  • Auditory processing
  • Dyslexia
  • Learning disability
  • Speech encoding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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