Development of a fast method for the psychophysical estimation of nonlinear cochlear function using schroeder-phase masking.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
In many previous physiological and psychoacoustic studies, Schroeder-phase masking (using Schroeder harmonic complexes to mask other sounds) has proven useful in understanding different aspects of cochlear function, particularly the phase curvature of the cochlea and cochlear nonlinearity. The common method of measuring Schroeder-phase masking functions uses a very time consuming three-alternative forced choice (3AFC) process, which limits its research and clinical usefulness. This thesis describes a fast method for measuring Schroeder-phase masking functions that we developed to address this problem. By adapting the Békésy tracking technique, we demonstrate how the measurement time can be reliably shortened by almost 80% in comparison to the commonly-used method. Using the fast method, we have demonstrated that the difference in masking effectiveness produced by different phases of Schroeder maskers (known as the ‘phase effect’) is reduced in conditions where cochlear non-linearity is expected to be reduced (i.e. at low intensity levels and in sensorineural hearing loss subjects) – findings which are consistent with previous studies. The possible involvement of other mechanisms in producing the Schroeder phase effect (particularly the medial olivocochlear (MOC) reflex) is discussed. Given the shorter testing time and higher resolution data it can give, the fast method can be a useful tool in estimating cochlear phase curvature. The reduction in testing time in particular may significantly aid the investigation of different aspects of cochlear function which might have been limited by the long testing time given by the commonly-used method.