Acuity of sound localisation: a topography of auditory space. III. Monaural hearing conditions

Perception. 1986;15(1):67-81. doi: 10.1068/p150067.


A study is reported in which the acuity of azimuth and elevation discrimination under monaural listening conditions was measured. Six subjects localised a sound source (white noise through a speaker) which varied in position over a range of elevations (-40 degrees to +40 degrees) and azimuths (0 degrees to 180 degrees), at 10 degrees intervals, on the left side of the head. Monaural listening conditions were established by the fitting of an ear defender and one earmuff to the right ear. The absolute and algebraic, azimuth and elevation errors were measured for all subjects at each position of the source. The results indicate that all subjects suffered a marked reduction of azimuth acuity under monaural conditions, although a coarse capacity to discriminate azimuth still remained. Considerable between-subject variability was observed. Front/back discrimination was retained, although it was slightly impaired compared to that observed under normal listening conditions. Elevation discrimination was, on the whole, quite good under monaural conditions. However, a comparison of the performance of these subjects under monaural conditions with that observed under normal listening conditions indicated that some reduction in elevation localisation acuity occurred in the frontal quadrants in the median plane and in the upper quadrants of more lateral source positions. The reduction in acuity seen in these regions is attributed to the loss of information from the pinna of the occluded ear rather than to the observed reduction in azimuth error. The results provide partial support for the binaural pinna disparity model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception*
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Sound Localization*