Sound localization under perturbed binaural hearing

Department of Biophysics, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nymegen, Gelderland, Netherlands
Journal of Neurophysiology (Impact Factor: 3.04). 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: Changing the shape of the outer ear using small in-ear molds degrades sound localization performance consistent with the distortion of monaural spectral cues to location. It has been shown recently that adult listeners re-calibrate to these new spectral cues for locations both inside and outside the visual field. This raises the question as to the teacher signal for this remarkable functional plasticity. Furthermore, large individual differences in the extent and rate of accommodation suggests a number of factors may be driving this process. A training paradigm exploiting multi-modal and sensory-motor feedback during accommodation was examined to determine whether it might accelerate this process. So as to standardize the modification of the spectral cues, molds filling 40% of the volume of each outer ear were custom made for each subject. Daily training sessions for about an hour, involving repetitive auditory stimuli and exploratory behavior by the subject, significantly improved the extent of accommodation measured by both front-back confusions and polar angle localization errors, with some improvement in the rate of accommodation demonstrated by front-back confusion errors. This work has implications for both the process by which a coherent representation of auditory space is maintained and for accommodative training for hearing aid wearers.
    The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 04/2014; 135(4):2002. DOI:10.1121/1.4868369 · 1.65 Impact Factor
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    Frontiers in Neuroscience 07/2014; 8:188. DOI:10.3389/fnins.2014.00188
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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 08/2014; 8:237. DOI:10.3389/fnins.2014.00237
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