Contribution of monaural and binaural cues to sound localization in listeners with acquired unilateral conductive hearing loss: Improved directional hearing with a bone-conduction device
ABSTRACT Sound localization in the horizontal (azimuth) plane relies mainly on interaural time differences (ITDs) and interaural level differences (ILDs). Both are distorted in listeners with acquired unilateral conductive hearing loss (UCHL), reducing their ability to localize sound. Several studies demonstrated that UCHL listeners had some ability to localize sound in azimuth. To test whether listeners with acquired UCHL use strongly perturbed binaural difference cues, we measured localization while they listened with a sound-attenuating earmuff over their impaired ear. We also tested the potential use of monaural pinna-induced spectral-shape cues for localization in azimuth and elevation, by filling the cavities of the pinna of their better-hearing ear with a mould. These conditions were tested while a bone-conduction device (BCD), fitted to all UCHL listeners in order to provide hearing from the impaired side, was turned off. We varied stimulus presentation levels to investigate whether UCHL listeners were using sound level as an azimuth cue. Furthermore, we examined whether horizontal sound-localization abilities improved when listeners used their BCD. Ten control listeners without hearing loss demonstrated a significant decrease in their localization abilities when they listened with a monaural plug and muff. In 4/13 UCHL listeners we observed good horizontal localization of 65 dB SPL broadband noises with their BCD turned off. Localization was strongly impaired when the impaired ear was covered with the muff. The mould in the good ear of listeners with UCHL deteriorated the localization of broadband sounds presented at 45 dB SPL. This demonstrates that they used pinna cues to localize sounds presented at low levels. Our data demonstrate that UCHL listeners have learned to adapt their localization strategies under a wide variety of hearing conditions and that sound-localization abilities improved with their BCD turned on.
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ABSTRACT: Under normal hearing conditions, comparisons of the sounds reaching each ear are critical for accurate sound localization. Asymmetric hearing loss should therefore degrade spatial hearing and has become an important experimental tool for probing the plasticity of the auditory system, both during development and adulthood. In clinical populations, hearing loss affecting one ear more than the other is commonly associated with otitis media with effusion, a disorder experienced by approximately 80% of children before the age of two. Asymmetric hearing may also arise in other clinical situations, such as after unilateral cochlear implantation. Here, we consider the role played by spatial cue integration in sound localization under normal acoustical conditions. We then review evidence for adaptive changes in spatial hearing following a developmental hearing loss in one ear, and show that adaptation may be achieved either by learning a new relationship between the altered cues and directions in space or by changing the way different cues are integrated in the brain. We next consider developmental plasticity as a source of vulnerability, describing maladaptive effects of asymmetric hearing loss that persist even when normal hearing is provided. We also examine the extent to which the consequences of asymmetric hearing loss depend upon its timing and duration. Although much of the experimental literature has focused on the effects of a stable unilateral hearing loss, some of the most common hearing impairments experienced by children tend to fluctuate over time. We therefore propose that there is a need to bridge this gap by investigating the effects of recurring hearing loss during development, and outline recent steps in this direction. We conclude by arguing that this work points toward a more nuanced view of developmental plasticity, in which plasticity may be selectively expressed in response to specific sensory contexts, and consider the clinical implications of this.Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience 12/2013; 7:123. DOI:10.3389/fnsys.2013.00123
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ABSTRACT: Neural systems must weight and integrate different sensory cues in order to make decisions. However, environmental conditions often change over time, altering the reliability of different cues and therefore the optimal way for combining them. To explore how cue integration develops in dynamic environments, we examined the effects on auditory spatial processing of rearing ferrets with localization cues that were modified via a unilateral earplug, interspersed with brief periods of normal hearing. In contrast with control animals, which rely primarily on timing and intensity differences between their two ears to localize sound sources, the juvenile-plugged ferrets developed the ability to localize sounds accurately by relying more on the unchanged spectral localization cues provided by the single normal ear. This adaptive process was paralleled by changes in neuronal responses in the primary auditory cortex, which became relatively more sensitive to these monaural spatial cues. Our behavioral and physiological data demonstrated, however, that the reweighting of different spatial cues disappeared as soon as normal hearing was experienced, showing for the first time that this type of plasticity can be context specific. These results show that developmental changes can be selectively expressed in response to specific acoustic conditions. In this way, the auditory system can develop and simultaneously maintain two distinct models of auditory space and switch between these models depending on the prevailing sensory context. This ability is likely to be critical for maintaining accurate perception in dynamic environments and may point toward novel therapeutic strategies for individuals who experience sensory deficits during development.Current biology: CB 06/2013; 23(14). DOI:10.1016/j.cub.2013.05.045 · 9.92 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The precedence effect is a prerequisite for faithful sound localization in a complex auditory environment, and is a physiological phenomenon in which the auditory system selectively suppresses the directional information from echoes. Here we investigated how neurons in the inferior colliculus respond to the paired sounds that produce precedence-effect illusions, and whether their firing behavior can be modulated through inhibition with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). We recorded extracellularly from 36 neurons in rat inferior colliculus under three conditions: no injection, injection with saline, and injection with gamma-aminobutyric acid. The paired sounds that produced precedence effects were two identical 4-ms noise bursts, which were delivered contralaterally or ipsilaterally to the recording site. The normalized neural responses were measured as a function of different inter-stimulus delays and half-maximal interstimulus delays were acquired. Neuronal responses to the lagging sounds were weak when the inter-stimulus delay was short, but increased gradually as the delay was lengthened. Saline injection produced no changes in neural responses, but after local gamma-aminobutyric acid application, responses to the lagging stimulus were suppressed. Application of gamma-aminobutyric acid affected the normalized response to lagging sounds, independently of whether they or the paired sounds were contralateral or ipsilateral to the recording site. These observations suggest that local inhibition by gamma-aminobutyric acid in the rat inferior colliculus shapes the neural responses to lagging sounds, and modulates the precedence effect.Neural Regeneration Research 02/2014; 9(4):420-9. DOI:10.4103/1673-5374.128250 · 0.23 Impact Factor