The study of binaural hearing concerns how and how well the ear and brain process information that arrives at two ears. In real-world settings, the information that arrives at the ears differs in terms of its timing and in terms of its intensity. It is these interaural differences that allow for the localization of sounds in space and for the detection and discrimination of signals in noisy backgrounds (e.g., speech in a background of noise). Several aspects of binaural hearing are the focus of research within the Department of Neuroscience. These range from the anatomical and physiological underpinnings of binaural processing to behavioral, or psychoacoustic measures in humans.
Vibrations are generated by the normal hearing mechanism as part of its processing of sounds that impinge on the eardrum. That is, the ear makes sounds of its own. The measurement of these otoacoustic emissions can serve as a powerful diagnostic tool for evaluating the health, status, and function of the inner ear and the auditory system. Electrophysiological measurements offer another noninvasive means of evaluating the status of the hearing mechanisms. These are made by measuring electrical potentials at the scalp that occur in response to sounds. Within the Department of Neuroscience, investigators are involved in the development, refinement, and utilization of diagnostic techniques based on the measurement of hearing diagnostics.