Effects of Stimulus Type on 16-kHz Detection Thresholds

Emily Buss, Stacey G. Kane, Kathryn S. Young, Chloe B. Gratzek, Danielle M. Bishop, Margaret K. Miller, Heather L. Porter, Lori J. Leibold, G. Christopher Stecker, Brian B. Monson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Audiometric testing typically does not include frequencies above 8 kHz. However, recent research suggests that extended high-frequency (EHF) sensitivity could affect hearing in natural communication environments. Clinical assessment of hearing often employs pure tones and frequency-modulated (FM) tones interchangeably regardless of frequency. The present study was designed to evaluate how the stimulus chosen to measure EHF thresholds affects estimates of hearing sensitivity. Design: The first experiment used standard audiometric procedures to measure 8- and 16-kHz thresholds for 5- to 28-year olds with normal hearing in the standard audiometric range (250 to 8000 Hz). Stimuli were steady tones, pulsed tones, and FM tones. The second experiment tested 18- to 28-year olds with normal hearing in the standard audiometric range using psychophysical procedures to evaluate how changes in sensitivity as a function of frequency affect detection of stimuli that differ with respect to bandwidth, including bands of noise. Thresholds were measured using steady tones, pulsed tones, FM tones, narrow bands of noise, and one-third-octave bands of noise at a range of center frequencies in one ear. Results: In experiment 1, thresholds improved with increasing age at 8 kHz and worsened with increasing age at 16 kHz. Thresholds for individual participants were relatively similar for steady, pulsed, and FM tones at 8 kHz. At 16 kHz, mean thresholds were approximately 5 dB lower for FM tones than for steady or pulsed tones. This stimulus effect did not differ as a function of age. Experiment 2 replicated this greater stimulus effect at 16 kHz than at 8 kHz and showed that the slope of the audibility curve accounted for these effects. Conclusions: Contrary to prior expectations, there was no evidence that the choice of stimulus type affected school-age children more than adults. For individual participants, audiometric thresholds at 16 kHz were as much as 20 dB lower for FM tones than for steady tones. Threshold differences across stimuli at 16 kHz were predicted by differences in audibility across frequency, which can vary markedly between listeners. These results highlight the importance of considering spectral width of the stimulus used to evaluate EHF thresholds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)486-498
Number of pages13
JournalEar and hearing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2024


  • Audibility
  • Extended high-frequency
  • Sloping loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Speech and Hearing
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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