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J Acoust Soc Am. 2016 May;139(5):2280. doi: 10.1121/1.4946897.

Auditory localization by subjects with unilateral tinnitus.

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Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Biomedicum Helsinki 1, P.O. Box 220, FI-00029 HUS, Helsinki, Finland.
Department of Signal Processing and Acoustics, Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering, Otakaari 5A, 02150 Espoo, Finland.


Tinnitus is associated with changes in neural activity. How such alterations impact the localization ability of subjects with tinnitus remains largely unexplored. In this study, subjects with self-reported unilateral tinnitus were compared to subjects with matching hearing loss at high frequencies and to normal-hearing subjects in horizontal and vertical plane localization tasks. Subjects were asked to localize a pink noise source either alone or over background noise. Results showed some degree of difference between subjects with tinnitus and subjects with normal hearing in horizontal plane localization, which was exacerbated by background noise. However, this difference could be explained by different hearing sensitivities between groups. In vertical plane localization there was no difference between groups in the binaural listening condition, but in monaural listening the tinnitus group localized significantly worse with the tinnitus ear. This effect remained when accounting for differences in hearing sensitivity. It is concluded that tinnitus may degrade auditory localization ability, but this effect is for the most part due to the associated levels of hearing loss. More detailed studies are needed to fully disentangle the effects of hearing loss and tinnitus.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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