Aging Effects on Behavioural Estimates of Suppression with Short Suppressors

Erica Hegland, Elizabeth Strickland

Auditory two-tone suppression is a nearly instantaneous reduction in the response of the basilar membrane to a tone or noise when a second tone or noise is presented simultaneously. Previous behavioural studies provide conflicting evidence on whether suppression changes with increasing age, and aging effects may depend on whether a suppressor above (high-side) or below (low-side) the signal frequency is used. Most previous studies have measured suppression using stimuli long enough to elicit the medial olivocochlear reflex (MOCR), a sound-elicited reflex that reduces cochlear amplification or gain. It has a “sluggish” onset of approximately 25 ms. There is physiological evidence that suppression may be reduced or altered by elicitation of the MOCR. In the present study, suppression was measured behaviourally in younger adults and older adults using a forward-masking paradigm with 20-ms and 70-ms maskers and suppressors. In experiment 1, gain was estimated by comparing on-frequency (2 kHz) and off-frequency (1.2 kHz) masker thresholds for a short, fixed-level 2-kHz signal. In experiment 2, the fixed-level signal was preceded by an off-frequency suppressor (1.2 or 2.4 kHz) presented simultaneously with the on-frequency masker. A suppressor level was chosen that did not produce any forward masking of the signal. Suppression was measured as the difference in on-frequency masker threshold with and without the suppressor present. The effects of age on gain and suppression estimates will be discussed.