Pitch is an important cue that allows the auditory system to distinguish between sound sources. Pitch cues are less useful when listeners are not able to discriminate different pitches between the two ears, a problem encountered by listeners with hearing impairment (HI). Many listeners with HI will fuse the pitch of two dichotically presented tones over a larger range of interaural frequency disparities, i.e., have a broader fusion range, than listeners with normal hearing (NH). One potential explanation for broader fusion in listeners with HI is that hearing aids stimulate at high sound levels. The present study investigated effects of overall sound levels on pitch fusion in listeners with NH. It was hypothesized that if sound level increased, then fusion range would increase. Fusion ranges were measured by presenting a fixed frequency tone to a reference ear simultaneously with a variable frequency tone to the opposite ear and finding the range of frequencies that were fused with the reference frequency. No significant effects of sound level (comfortable level ± 15 dB) on fusion range were found, even when tested within the range of levels where some listeners with HI show large fusion ranges. Results suggest that increased sound level does not explain increased fusion range in listeners with HI and imply that other factors associated with hearing loss might play a larger role.
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References

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