Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Speech and Hearing Science



Research Advisor

Patrick Plyler, PhD


Ashley Harkrider, PhD Patti Johnstone, PhD James Lewis, PhD Devin McCaslin, PhD


Assessment, Vestibular


Accurate measurement of the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) is imperative in differential diagnosis of vestibular disorders and balance function. However, the assessment protocol faces a number of limitations, including the need to control for extra- vestibular sensory factors such as hearing. Previous research has shown that the use of an auditory stimulus can have a significant effect on functional measures of balance, and many have contributed effects to be the result of spatial hearing. However, no studies have directly assessed the effect of speaker location on the VOR nor investigated correlations of functional spatial hearing with the VOR. Therefore, the aims of this study were to 1) assess the effect of speaker location on the VOR and 2) investigate if spatial hearing abilities are correlated with the strength of the VOR.

A between subjects repeated measures design was utilized with a child group (age 6-9 years) and an adult group (18-40 years). The rationale of the two groups was to compare differences in a group with underdeveloped localization abilities (child) and a group with matured localization abilities (adult). A total of 22 children and 23 adults participated in this study. Localization ability was measured using the root mean square (RMS) error method. VOR gain was measured using the rotational chair test at a rate of .08 Hz in the following auditory conditions: silent (insert earphones turned off), insert earphones turned on, external speaker at 0° azimuth rotating with participant, and external stationary speaker. Order of testing was randomized to control for any order effects. An independent samples t-test confirmed a significant difference in RMS error between groups with the child group performing worse than the adults. Subsequent multivariate analysis of variance indicated a significant effect for speaker location with the external moving speaker having significantly lower gain and the external stationary speaker having significantly increased gain for both child and adult groups. Correlations were run for both groups for both fixed and moving speaker conditions. No correlation was seen in either condition for the child group, however, a positive correlation was seen for both conditions for the adult group, meaning as RMS error increased so did VOR gain.

These results indicate the possible need to control for environmental auditory stimulus location when undergoing vestibular assessment. However, further studies need to be performed to corroborate the evidence presented.

Declaration of Authorship

Declaration of Authorship is included in the supplemental files.




2020-038-Easterday-DOA.pdf (345 kB)
Declaration of Authorship