Sound localization under perturbed binaural hearing.
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: The article aims to test the hypothesis that audiovisual integration can improve spatial hearing in monaural conditions when interaural difference cues are not available. We trained one group of subjects with an audiovisual task, where a flash was presented in parallel with the sound and another group in an auditory task, where only sound from different spatial locations was presented. To check whether the observed audiovisual effect was similar to feedback, the third group was trained using the visual feedback paradigm. Training sessions were administered once per day, for 5 days. The performance level in each group was compared for auditory only stimulation on the first and the last day of practice. Improvement after audiovisual training was several times higher than after auditory practice. The group trained with visual feedback demonstrated a different effect of training with the improvement smaller than the group with audiovisual training. We conclude that cross-modal facilitation is highly important to improve spatial hearing in monaural conditions and may be applied to the rehabilitation of patients with unilateral deafness and after unilateral cochlear implantation.PLoS ONE 01/2011; 6(3):e18344. · 4.09 Impact Factor