Sound localization under perturbed binaural hearing.

Department of Biophysics, Radboud University Nijmegen, Geert Grooteplein 21, 6525 EZ Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Journal of Neurophysiology (Impact Factor: 3.3). 01/2007; 97(1):715-26. DOI: 10.1152/jn.00260.2006
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT This paper reports on the acute effects of a monaural plug on directional hearing in the horizontal (azimuth) and vertical (elevation) planes of human listeners. Sound localization behavior was tested with rapid head-orienting responses toward brief high-pass filtered (>3 kHz; HP) and broadband (0.5-20 kHz; BB) noises, with sound levels between 30 and 60 dB, A-weighted (dBA). To deny listeners any consistent azimuth-related head-shadow cues, stimuli were randomly interleaved. A plug immediately degraded azimuth performance, as evidenced by a sound level-dependent shift ("bias") of responses contralateral to the plug, and a level-dependent change in the slope of the stimulus-response relation ("gain"). Although the azimuth bias and gain were highly correlated, they could not be predicted from the plug's acoustic attenuation. Interestingly, listeners performed best for low-intensity stimuli at their normal-hearing side. These data demonstrate that listeners rely on monaural spectral cues for sound-source azimuth localization as soon as the binaural difference cues break down. Also the elevation response components were affected by the plug: elevation gain depended on both stimulus azimuth and on sound level and, as for azimuth, localization was best for low-intensity stimuli at the hearing side. Our results show that the neural computation of elevation incorporates a binaural weighting process that relies on the perceived, rather than the actual, sound-source azimuth. It is our conjecture that sound localization ensues from a weighting of all acoustic cues for both azimuth and elevation, in which the weights may be partially determined, and rapidly updated, by the reliability of the particular cue.

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    ABSTRACT: Direction-specific interactions of sound waves with the head, torso, and pinna provide unique spectral-shape cues that are used for the localization of sounds in the vertical plane, whereas horizontal sound localization is based primarily on the processing of binaural acoustic differences in arrival time (interaural time differences, or ITDs) and sound level (interaural level differences, or ILDs). Because the binaural sound-localization cues are absent in listeners with total single-sided deafness (SSD), their ability to localize sound is heavily impaired. However, some studies have reported that SSD listeners are able, to some extent, to localize sound sources in azimuth, although the underlying mechanisms used for localization are unclear. To investigate whether SSD listeners rely on monaural pinna-induced spectral-shape cues of their hearing ear for directional hearing, we investigated localization performance for low-pass filtered (LP, <1.5 kHz), high-pass filtered (HP, >3kHz), and broadband (BB, 0.5-20 kHz) noises in the two-dimensional frontal hemifield. We tested whether localization performance of SSD listeners further deteriorated when the pinna cavities of their hearing ear were filled with a mold that disrupted their spectral-shape cues. To remove the potential use of perceived sound level as an invalid azimuth cue, we randomly varied stimulus presentation levels over a broad range (45-65 dB SPL). Several listeners with SSD could localize HP and BB sound sources in the horizontal plane, but inter-subject variability was considerable. Localization performance of these listeners strongly reduced after diminishing of their spectral pinna-cues. We further show that inter-subject variability of SSD can be explained to a large extent by the severity of high-frequency hearing loss in their hearing ear.
    Frontiers in neuroscience. 01/2014; 8:188.
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    ABSTRACT: The auditory system of adult listeners has been shown to accommodate to altered spectral cues to sound location which presumably provides the basis for recalibration to changes in the shape of the ear over a life time. Here we review the role of auditory and non-auditory inputs to the perception of sound location and consider a range of recent experiments looking at the role of non-auditory inputs in the process of accommodation to these altered spectral cues. A number of studies have used small ear molds to modify the spectral cues that result in significant degradation in localization performance. Following chronic exposure (10-60 days) performance recovers to some extent and recent work has demonstrated that this occurs for both audio-visual and audio-only regions of space. This begs the questions as to the teacher signal for this remarkable functional plasticity in the adult nervous system. Following a brief review of influence of the motor state in auditory localization, we consider the potential role of auditory-motor learning in the perceptual recalibration of the spectral cues. Several recent studies have considered how multi-modal and sensory-motor feedback might influence accommodation to altered spectral cues produced by ear molds or through virtual auditory space stimulation using non-individualized spectral cues. The work with ear molds demonstrates that a relatively short period of training involving audio-motor feedback (5-10 days) significantly improved both the rate and extent of accommodation to altered spectral cues. This has significant implications not only for the mechanisms by which this complex sensory information is encoded to provide spatial cues but also for adaptive training to altered auditory inputs. The review concludes by considering the implications for rehabilitative training with hearing aids and cochlear prosthesis.
    Frontiers in neuroscience. 01/2014; 8:237.