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Abnormal Auditory Gain in Hyperacusis: Investigation with a Computational Model

Diehl, PU; Schaette, R; (2015) Abnormal Auditory Gain in Hyperacusis: Investigation with a Computational Model. Frontiers in Neurology , 6 , Article 157. 10.3389/fneur.2015.00157. Green open access

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Abstract

Hyperacusis is a frequent auditory disorder that is characterized by abnormal loudness perception where sounds of relatively normal volume are perceived as too loud or even painfully loud. As hyperacusis patients show decreased loudness discomfort levels (LDLs) and steeper loudness growth functions, it has been hypothesized that hyperacusis might be caused by an increase in neuronal response gain in the auditory system. Moreover, since about 85% of hyperacusis patients also experience tinnitus, the conditions might be caused by a common mechanism. However, the mechanisms that give rise to hyperacusis have remained unclear. Here, we have used a computational model of the auditory system to investigate candidate mechanisms for hyperacusis. Assuming that perceived loudness is proportional to the summed activity of all auditory nerve (AN) fibers, the model was tuned to reproduce normal loudness perception. We then evaluated a variety of potential hyperacusis gain mechanisms by determining their effects on model equal-loudness contours and comparing the results to the LDLs of hyperacusis patients with normal hearing thresholds. Hyperacusis was best accounted for by an increase in non-linear gain in the central auditory system. Good fits to the average patient LDLs were obtained for a general increase in gain that affected all frequency channels to the same degree, and also for a frequency-specific gain increase in the high-frequency range. Moreover, the gain needed to be applied after subtraction of spontaneous activity of the AN, which is in contrast to current theories of tinnitus generation based on amplification of spontaneous activity. Hyperacusis and tinnitus might therefore be caused by different changes in neuronal processing in the central auditory system.

Type: Article
Title: Abnormal Auditory Gain in Hyperacusis: Investigation with a Computational Model
Location: Switzerland
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3389/fneur.2015.00157
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2015.00157
Language: English
Additional information: © 2015 Diehl and Schaette. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Keywords: auditory system, computational model, gain, hyperacusis, tinnitus
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > The Ear Institute
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1472606
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