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Adaptability in spatial hearing

Project Acronym: ASH
Duration: 01/03/2020 – 31/12/2021
Project Number: DS-FR-19-0025
Funding Agency: EU Danube Region Strategy & The Slovak Research and Development Agency


Spatial hearing allows us to localize sound sources, to understand speech in complex noisy environments, to orient in space, and to enjoy music. Current virtual reality systems can recreate a highly realistic virtual environment, utilizing algorithms that rely heavily on our understanding of auditory processing in normal-hearing listeners. However, this understanding is particularly limited in terms of 1) how we perceive distance, 2) how adaptive our perception is when the surrounding acoustic environment changes, and 3) what factors determine sound “externalization” (i.e., whether we perceive a virtual sound, presented via headphones, as originating from inside vs. outside our head).
The goal of the current project is to test several hypotheses about the mechanisms and factors influencing spatial auditory perception in real and virtual environments. Specifically, it will examine 1) what factors are important for distance perception in static and dynamic environments, 2) whether reweighting can be induced in how the binaural localization cues are combined for a horizontal location percept, and 3) what cues determine externalization of a sound source. These results will considerably advance the current understanding of the mechanisms of spatial auditory perception. They have the potential to significantly improve the prosthetic devices for the deaf and blind (hearing aids, and cochlear implants, auditory displays for the blind), as well as other virtual reality auralization technologies, and biologically-inspired systems for sound localization. In addition, a workshop will be organized to disseminate results of the project and to advance exchange of information between collaborating groups. Finally, this project will provide a framework for establishing a new collaboration between unique labs in Austria, France, and Slovakia, for exchange of young scientists, and for preparation of large collaborative proposals.


Piotr Majdak, Austrian Academy of Science
Mathieu Lavandier, ENTPE, University of Lyon, France