Characterizing individual differences in frequency coding: Implications for hidden hearing loss
A long-standing debate in hearing research has focused on whether frequency is coded in the peripheral auditory system via phase-locked timing information in the auditory nerve (temporal code), or via tonotopic information based on the firing rates of auditory-nerve fibers tuned to different frequencies (rate-place code). Because frequency discrimination is generally much more accurate than intensity discrimination, it has been thought that frequency is likely to be coded via a temporal code, whereas intensity is represented via a rate code. However, direct empirical tests of this assumption have produced mixed results. This paper reviews a way in which the coding of both frequency and intensity might be reconciled within a single mechanism, and then uses an approach based on simple signal detection theory to predict the effects of a loss auditory-nerve synapses (synaptopathy) on some basic psychoacoustic phenomena, such as detection thresholds, frequency discrimination, and intensity discrimination. The predictions provide a baseline with which to compare future empirical findings based on the perceptual consequences of synaptopathy, or “hidden hearing loss.”
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