We investigated the effect of a biasing tone close to 5, 15, or 30 Hz on the response to higher-frequency probe tones, behaviorally, and by measuring distortion-product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs). The amplitude of the biasing tone was adjusted for criterion suppression of cubic DPOAE elicited by probe tones presented between 0.7 and 8 kHz, or criterion loudness suppression of a train of tone-pip probes in the range 0.125-8 kHz. For DPOAEs, the biasing-tone level for criterion suppression increased with probe-tone frequency by 8-9 dB/octave, consistent with an apex-to-base gradient of biasing-tone-induced basilar membrane displacement, as we verified by computational simulation. In contrast, the biasing-tone level for criterion loudness suppression increased with probe frequency by only 1-3 dB/octave, reminiscent of previously published data on low-side suppression of auditory nerve responses to characteristic frequency tones. These slopes were independent of biasing-tone frequency, but the biasing-tone sensation level required for criterion suppression was ~ 10 dB lower for the two infrasound biasing tones than for the 30-Hz biasing tone. On average, biasing-tone sensation levels as low as 5 dB were sufficient to modulate the perception of higher frequency sounds. Our results are relevant for recent debates on perceptual effects of environmental noise with very low-frequency content and might offer insight into the mechanism underlying low-side suppression.
Keywords: biasing; cochlear mechanics; human cochlea; infrasound; low-frequency hearing.
© 2022. The Author(s).