Selective auditory or visual attention reduces physiological noise in the ear canals of human subjects

Kyle Walsh, Edward G. Pasanen, Dennis McFadden

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


A nonlinear version of the stimulus-frequency OAE (SFOAE), called the nSFOAE, was used to measure cochlear responses from human subjects while they simultaneously performed behavioral tasks requiring selective auditory attention (dichotic or diotic listening), selective visual attention, or relatively little attention. The auditory- and visual-attention tasks both were digit-recall tasks, where the nSFOAE-stimuli were interleaved with seven spoken (or displayed) digits. Unlike many previous studies, the required motor behavior always was the same across all tasks, including the inattention tasks. A 30-ms recording in the quiet followed every nSFOAE-eliciting stimulus to provide an estimate of the magnitude of each subject's physiological noise in each experimental condition. For every subject, physiological-noise magnitudes were higher (noisier) in the inattention tasks, and lower (quieter) in the selective auditory- and visual-attention tasks. The differences in noise levels were about 3-6 dB, on average, and the effect sizes for those differences all were greater than 2.5. Our interpretation is that the efferent innervation of the cochlea is activated maximally during selective attention (be it auditory or visual), potentially to the benefit of the observer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number050079
JournalProceedings of Meetings on Acoustics
StatePublished - 2013
Event21st International Congress on Acoustics, ICA 2013 - 165th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America - Montreal, QC, Canada
Duration: Jun 2 2013Jun 7 2013


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