Supra-threshold perception and neural representation of tones presented in noise in conditions of masking release.
ABSTRACT: The neural representation and perceptual salience of tonal signals presented in different noise maskers were investigated. The properties of the maskers and signals were varied such that they produced different amounts of either monaural masking release, binaural masking release, or a combination of both. The signals were then presented at different levels above their corresponding masked thresholds and auditory evoked potentials (AEPs) were measured. It was found that, independent of the masking condition, the amplitude of the P2 component of the AEP was similar for the same stimulus levels above masked threshold, suggesting that both monaural and binaural effects of masking release were represented at the level of the auditory pathway where P2 is generated. The perceptual salience of the signal was evaluated at equal levels above masked threshold using a rating task. In contrast to the electrophysiological findings, the subjective ratings of the perceptual signal salience were less consistent with the signal level above masked threshold and varied strongly across listeners and masking conditions. Overall, the results from the present study suggest that the P2 amplitude of the AEP represents an objective indicator of the audibility of a target signal in the presence of complex acoustic maskers.
Project description:Experiment 1 examined detection and discrimination of monaural four-tone sequences composed of 400-, 500-, and 625-Hz sinusoids. In the baseline conditions, the masker was monaural composed of 25-Hz-wide bands of random noise centered on 320, 400, 500, 625, and 781 Hz. In the binaural masking release conditions, the noise was presented diotically. In the monaural masking release conditions, the noise was presented to the same ear as the signal, but it was comodulated. Tones had half-amplitude durations of 30, 60, or 150 ms. There was no delay between successive tones, so the rate of frequency change depended on tone duration. Listeners discriminated between sequences composed of 500-400-625-500 Hz and 500-625-400-500 Hz. Discrimination results were poor for rapid sequences in both monaural and binaural masking release conditions relative to baseline conditions. Results from experiment 2 indicated that poor discrimination for rapid sequences could also occur in the baseline conditions, provided that the frequency separation among tonal components was small. Sluggish processing in the present paradigm was not restricted to conditions relying on binaural cues. It is argued that sluggishness may reflect a long temporal window in monaural and binaural masking release conditions or an interaction between poor cue quality and task difficulty.
Project description:Spatial release from masking was studied in a three-talker soundfield listening experiment. The target talker was presented at 0 degrees azimuth and the maskers were either colocated or symmetrically positioned around the target, with a different masker talker on each side. The symmetric placement greatly reduced any "better ear" listening advantage. When the maskers were separated from the target by +/-15 degrees , the average spatial release from masking was 8 dB. Wider separations increased the release to more than 12 dB. This large effect was eliminated when binaural cues and perceived spatial separation were degraded by covering one ear with an earplug and earmuff. Increasing reverberation in the room increased the target-to-masker ratio (TM) for the separated, but not colocated, conditions reducing the release from masking, although a significant advantage of spatial separation remained. Time reversing the masker speech improved performance in both the colocated and spatially separated cases but lowered TM the most for the colocated condition, also resulting in a reduction in the spatial release from masking. Overall, the spatial tuning observed appears to depend on the presence of interaural differences that improve the perceptual segregation of sources and facilitate the focus of attention at a point in space.
Project description:Spatial hearing skills are essential for children as they grow, learn and play. These skills provide critical cues for determining the locations of sources in the environment, and enable segregation of important sounds, such as speech, from background maskers or interferers. Spatial hearing depends on availability of monaural cues and binaural cues. The latter result from integration of inputs arriving at the two ears from sounds that vary in location. The binaural system has exquisite mechanisms for capturing differences between the ears in both time of arrival and intensity. The major cues that are thus referred to as being vital for binaural hearing are: interaural differences in time (ITDs) and interaural differences in levels (ILDs). In children with normal hearing (NH), spatial hearing abilities are fairly well developed by age 4-5 years. In contrast, most children who are deaf and hear through cochlear implants (CIs) do not have an opportunity to experience normal, binaural acoustic hearing early in life. These children may function by having to utilize auditory cues that are degraded with regard to numerous stimulus features. In recent years there has been a notable increase in the number of children receiving bilateral CIs, and evidence suggests that while having two CIs helps them function better than when listening through a single CI, these children generally perform worse than their NH peers. This paper reviews some of the recent work on bilaterally implanted children. The focus is on measures of spatial hearing, including sound localization, release from masking for speech understanding in noise and binaural sensitivity using research processors. Data from behavioral and electrophysiological studies are included, with a focus on the recent work of the authors and their collaborators. The effects of auditory plasticity and deprivation on the emergence of binaural and spatial hearing are discussed along with evidence for reorganized processing from both behavioral and electrophysiological studies. The consequences of both unilateral and bilateral auditory deprivation during development suggest that the relevant set of issues is highly complex with regard to successes and the limitations experienced by children receiving bilateral cochlear implants. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled <Annual Reviews 2016>.
Project description:The present study sought to clarify the role of non-simultaneous masking in the binaural masking level difference for maskers that fluctuate in level. In the first experiment the signal was a brief 500-Hz tone, and the masker was a bandpass noise (100-2000 Hz), with the initial and final 200-ms bursts presented at 40-dB spectrum level and the inter-burst gap presented at 20-dB spectrum level. Temporal windows were fitted to thresholds measured for a range of gap durations and signal positions within the gap. In the second experiment, individual differences in out of phase (NoSπ) thresholds were compared for a brief signal in a gapped bandpass masker, a brief signal in a steady bandpass masker, and a long signal in a narrowband (50-Hz-wide) noise masker. The third experiment measured brief tone detection thresholds in forward, simultaneous, and backward masking conditions for a 50- and for a 1900-Hz-wide noise masker centered on the 500-Hz signal frequency. Results are consistent with comparable temporal resolution in the in phase (NoSo) and NoSπ conditions and no effect of temporal resolution on individual observers' ability to utilize binaural cues in narrowband noise. The large masking release observed for a narrowband noise masker may be due to binaural masking release from non-simultaneous, informational masking.
Project description:Spatial release from masking (SRM) was measured in groups of children with bilateral cochlear implants (BiCIs, average ages 6.0 and 7.9 yr) and with normal hearing (NH, average ages 5.0 and 7.8 yr). Speech reception thresholds (SRTs) were measured for target speech in front (0°), and interferers in front, distributed asymmetrically toward the right (+90°/+90°) or distributed symmetrically toward the right and left (+90°/-90°). In the asymmetrical condition both monaural "better ear" and binaural cues are available. In the symmetrical condition, listeners rely heavily on binaural cues to segregate sources. SRM was computed as the difference between SRTs in the front condition and SRTs in either the asymmetrical or symmetrical conditions. Results showed that asymmetrical SRM was smaller in BiCI users than NH children. Furthermore, NH children showed symmetrical SRM, suggesting they are able to use binaural cues for source segregation, whereas children with BiCIs had minimal or absent symmetrical SRM. These findings suggest that children who receive BiCIs can segregate speech from noise under conditions that maximize monaural better ear cues. Limitations in the CI devices likely play an important role in limiting SRM. Thus, improvement in spatial hearing abilities in children with BiCIs may require binaural processing strategies.
Project description:Bilateral cochlear implant (BiCI) users gain an advantage in noisy situations from a second implant, but their bilateral performance falls short of normal hearing listeners. Channel interactions due to overlapping electrical fields between electrodes can impair speech perception, but its role in limiting binaural hearing performance has not been well characterized. To address the issue, binaural masking level differences (BMLD) for a 125 Hz tone in narrowband noise were measured using a pair of pitch-matched electrodes while simultaneously presenting the same masking noise to adjacent electrodes, representing a more realistic stimulation condition compared to prior studies that used only a single electrode pair. For five subjects, BMLDs averaged 8.9 ± 1.0 dB (mean ± s.e.) in single electrode pairs but dropped to 2.1 ± 0.4 dB when presenting noise on adjacent masking electrodes, demonstrating a negative impact of the additional maskers. Removing the masking noise from only the pitch-matched electrode pair not only lowered thresholds but also resulted in smaller BMLDs. The degree of channel interaction estimated from auditory nerve evoked potentials in three subjects was significantly and negatively correlated with BMLD. The data suggest that if the amount of channel interactions can be reduced, BiCI users may experience some performance improvements related to binaural hearing.
Project description:This study compared spatial speech-in-noise performance in two cochlear implant (CI) patient groups: bimodal listeners, who use a hearing aid contralaterally to support their impaired acoustic hearing, and listeners with contralateral normal hearing, i.e., who were single-sided deaf before implantation. Using a laboratory setting that controls for head movements and that simulates spatial acoustic scenes, speech reception thresholds were measured for frontal speech-in-stationary noise from the front, the left, or the right side. Spatial release from masking (SRM) was then extracted from speech reception thresholds for monaural and binaural listening. SRM was found to be significantly lower in bimodal CI than in CI single-sided deaf listeners. Within each listener group, the SRM extracted from monaural listening did not differ from the SRM extracted from binaural listening. In contrast, a normal-hearing control group showed a significant improvement in SRM when using two ears in comparison to one. Neither CI group showed a binaural summation effect; that is, their performance was not improved by using two devices instead of the best monaural device in each spatial scenario. The results confirm a "listening with the better ear" strategy in the two CI patient groups, where patients benefited from using two ears/devices instead of one by selectively attending to the better one. Which one is the better ear, however, depends on the spatial scenario and on the individual configuration of hearing loss.
Project description:Experiment 1 examined comodulation masking release (CMR) for a 700-Hz tonal signal under conditions of N(o)S(o) (noise and signal interaurally in phase) and N(o)S(π) (noise in phase, signal out of phase) stimulation. The baseline stimulus for CMR was either a single 24-Hz wide narrowband noise centered on the signal frequency [on-signal band (OSB)] or the OSB plus, a set of flanking noise bands having random envelopes. Masking noise was either gated or continuous. The CMR, defined with respect to either the OSB or the random noise baseline, was smaller for N(o)S(π) than N(o)S(o) stimulation, particularly when the masker was continuous. Experiment 2 examined whether the same pattern of results would be obtained for a 2000-Hz signal frequency; the number of flanking bands was also manipulated (two versus eight). Results again showed smaller CMR for N(o)S(π) than N(o)S(o) stimulation for both continuous and gated masking noise. The CMR was larger with eight than with two flanking bands, and this difference was greater for N(o)S(o) than N(o)S(π). The results of this study are compatible with serial mechanisms of binaural and monaural masking release, but they indicate that the combined masking release (binaural masking-level difference and CMR) falls short of being additive.
Project description:OBJECTIVES:This study was designed to evaluate binaural temporal processing in young and older adults using a binaural masking level difference (BMLD) paradigm. Using behavioral and electrophysiological measures within the same listeners, a series of stimulus manipulations was used to evaluate the relative contribution of binaural temporal fine-structure and temporal envelope cues. We evaluated the hypotheses that age-related declines in the BMLD task would be more strongly associated with temporal fine-structure than envelope cues and that age-related declines in behavioral measures would be correlated with cortical auditory evoked potential (CAEP) measures. DESIGN:Thirty adults participated in the study, including 10 young normal-hearing, 10 older normal-hearing, and 10 older hearing-impaired adults with bilaterally symmetric, mild-to-moderate sensorineural hearing loss. Behavioral and CAEP thresholds were measured for diotic (So) and dichotic (S?) tonal signals presented in continuous diotic (No) narrowband noise (50-Hz wide) maskers. Temporal envelope cues were manipulated by using two different narrowband maskers; Gaussian noise (GN) with robust envelope fluctuations and low-noise noise (LNN) with minimal envelope fluctuations. The potential to use temporal fine-structure cues was controlled by varying the signal frequency (500 or 4000 Hz), thereby relying on the natural decline in phase-locking with increasing frequency. RESULTS:Behavioral and CAEP thresholds were similar across groups for diotic conditions, while the masking release in dichotic conditions was larger for younger than for older participants. Across all participants, BMLDs were larger for GN than LNN and for 500-Hz than for 4000-Hz conditions, where envelope and fine-structure cues were most salient, respectively. Specific age-related differences were demonstrated for 500-Hz dichotic conditions in GN and LNN, reflecting reduced binaural temporal fine-structure coding. No significant age effects were observed for 4000-Hz dichotic conditions, consistent with similar use of binaural temporal envelope cues across age in these conditions. For all groups, thresholds and derived BMLD values obtained using the behavioral and CAEP methods were strongly correlated, supporting the notion that CAEP measures may be useful as an objective index of age-related changes in binaural temporal processing. CONCLUSIONS:These results demonstrate an age-related decline in the processing of binaural temporal fine-structure cues with preserved temporal envelope coding that was similar with and without mild-to-moderate peripheral hearing loss. Such age-related changes can be reliably indexed by both behavioral and CAEP measures in young and older adults.
Project description:The primary purpose of the present experiment was to test whether the binaural equal-loudness-ratio hypothesis (i.e., the loudness ratio between monaural and binaural tones presented at the same Sound Pressure Level, SPL, is independent of SPL) holds for hearing-impaired listeners with bilaterally symmetrical hearing losses. The outcome of this experiment provided a theoretical construct for modeling loudness-growth functions. A cross-modality matching task between string length and tones was used to measure three loudness functions for eight listeners: two monaural (left and right) and one binaural. A multiple linear regression was performed to test the significance of presentation mode (monaural vs binaural and left vs right), level, and their interaction. Results indicate that monaural loudness functions differ between the ears of two listeners. The interaction between presentation mode (binaural/monaural) and level was significant for one listener. Although significant, these differences were quite small. Generally, the binaural equal-loudness-ratio hypothesis appears to hold for hearing-impaired listeners. These data also indicate that loudness-growth functions in two ears of an individual are more similar than loudness-growth functions in ears from different listeners. Finally, it is demonstrated that loudness-growth functions can be constructed for individual listeners from binaural level difference for equal-loudness data.