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Title: Binaural hearing with bone conduction stimulation
Author: Alomari, Hala M.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5362 0318
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2014
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It has been argued that apparent masking-level differences (MLDs) in users of bilateral bone-anchored hearing aids (BAHAs) provide evidence of binaural hearing. However, there is considerably less acoustical isolation between the two ears with bone conduction (BC) compared to air conduction (AC). The apparent MLDs may have arisen, at least in part, from inter-cranial interference between signals arising from the two BAHAs (i.e. monaural effect). That might also explain some of the inter-individual variation in both the magnitude and the direction of the MLDs reported in BAHA users. The present study was composed of three experimental stages with the main aim to investigate the influence of interference in normal hearing participants by measuring masking level difference in AC and BC to explore the conditions contributing to the reported variation. An additional aim was to investigate the performance of a newly designed BC transducer; the balanced electromagnetic separation transducer (BEST), for bone conduction research as well as more general clinical use. Stage 1 evaluated the performance of the BEST in comparison to the clinically used RadioEar B71 in a series of acoustical (sensitivity and harmonic distortion) and psychoacoustical (hearing thresholds and vibrotactile thresholds) measurements. The results from these studies led to the use of the BEST in the second and third stages because they produced significantly lower harmonic distortion at low frequencies (mainly 250 Hz). The psychoacoustic measurements alluded to the need to use different calibration values with the BESTs. Stage 2 was a preliminary investigation comparing the MLDs with standard bilateral configurations between the AC and BC in nine normal-hearing participants. Signals were pure tones at one of three frequencies (250, 500, 1000 Hz), presented via AC or BC. Broadband noise (100- 5000 Hz) was always presented via AC at 70 dB SPL. Thresholds were estimated using a three-alternative forced choice procedure combined with an adaptive staircase. Transducers used were insert earphones and the BESTs for BC testing. The results from this stage showed a statistical significant difference between AC and BC MLDs at 250, 500 and 1000 Hz (mean difference is 9.4, 6.6 and 3.5 dB respectively). Evidence of the change in the MLDs direction is observed at 250 Hz in three participants. Stage 3 consisted of the investigation of inter-cranial interference in eighteen normal hearing participants. This stage was composed of three main measurements. The first measurement compared the AC and BC MLDs at three test frequencies. The second measurement evaluated the transcranial attenuation (TA). The third measurement was the novel feature of the study it evaluated the monaural interference effect through the measurement of the diotic and dichotic conditions in one test ear. A significant discrepancy was found between the AC and BC MLDs of approximately 6, 1.5 and 2.5 dB at 500, 1000 and 2000 Hz, respectively. The TA was found to be lower than 10 dB at the three test frequencies. Measurable MTLDs were reported in some of the participants, high inter-subject variability was observed in the direction of the MTLDs. The BEST can reliably replace the B71 in clinical setup. Formal adjustment of the reference equivalent threshold force levels is advised. Binaural hearing was achieved through bilateral BC stimulation to a lesser magnitude compared to AC MLDs in normal hearing participants. The discrepancy between the AC and BC MLDs was reduced with the increase in the frequency. The discrepancy can partially be explained by the cross-talk of the signal in one ear. The results showed that in some participants the magnitude of the monaural tone level difference was similar to the magnitude of the BC MLD. Further investigation is recommended to investigate the association of the transcranial delay with the discrepancy between the AC and BC MLDs. This investigation also recommends the investigation of the AC and BC MLDs in patients fitted with bilateral BAHAs.
Supervisor: Rowan, Daniel Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: RF Otorhinolaryngology ; TK Electrical engineering. Electronics Nuclear engineering