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Perception. 2002;31(7):855-73.

Lateralization of narrow-band noise by blind and sighted listeners.

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Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, San Francisco, CA 94115, USA.


The effects of varying interaural time delay (ITD) and interaural intensity difference (IID) were measured in normal-hearing sighted and congenitally blind subjects as a function of eleven frequencies and at sound pressure levels of 70 and 90 dB, and at a sensation level of 25 dB (sensation level refers to the pressure level of the sound above its threshold for the individual subject). Using an 'acoustic' pointing paradigm, the subject varied the IID of a 500 Hz narrow-band (100 Hz) noise (the 'pointer') to coincide with the apparent lateral position of a 'target' ITD stimulus. ITDs of 0, +/-200, and +/-400 micros were obtained through total waveform delays of narrow-band noise, including envelope and fine structure. For both groups, the results of this experiment confirm the traditional view of binaural hearing for like stimuli: non-zero ITDs produce little perceived lateral displacement away from 0 IID at frequencies above 1250 Hz. To the extent that greater magnitude of lateralization for a given ITD, presentation level, and center frequency can be equated with superior localization abilities, blind listeners appear at least comparable and even somewhat better than sighted subjects, especially when attending to signals in the periphery. The present findings suggest that blind listeners are fully able to utilize the cues for spatial hearing, and that vision is not a mandatory prerequisite for the calibration of human spatial hearing.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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