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Open Access Effects of High-Intensity Airborne Ultrasound Exposure on Behavioural and Electrophysiological Measures of Auditory Function

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This article is Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY licence.

Regulations on safe ultrasound exposure limits are based on a very limited number of studies, which have only considered audiometric threshold shifts as indicators of hearing deficits. The purpose of the current study was to assess the effects of exposure to high-intensity ultrasound on a range of measures of hearing function, which included audiometric thresholds, as well as subclinical measures of hearing deficits: speech-in-noise understanding, supra-threshold auditory brainstem response wave I amplitude and latency, and frequency following response levels to amplitude modulated (AM) tones. Changes in these measures were assessed before and after exposure of the left ear to high-intensity ultrasound in a group of nine young listeners. These changes were compared to those observed in a control group of nine young listeners. Exposure consisted in the presentation of a 40-kHz AM tone at levels of 105, 110, 115, and 120 dB SPL for 10 minutes at each level, plus an exposure to a 40-kHz unmodulated tone during an ultrasound detection task, for a total duration of 50 seconds. None of the measures of hearing function was found to change significantly more for the left compared to the right ear, for participants of the exposure group compared to control participants. Electroencephalographic recordings obtained during exposure to the AM tone did not show significant phase-locked activity at the modulation frequency or at low-frequency subharmonics of the ultrasound tone. One out of nine participants was able to perform the ultrasound detection task above chance level, although due to limitations of the experimental setup the mechanism by which she could detect the presentation of the tone remains unclear.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2019

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  • Acta Acustica united with Acustica, published together with the European Acoustics Association (EAA), is an international, peer-reviewed journal on acoustics. It publishes original articles on all subjects in the field of acoustics, such as general linear acoustics, nonlinear acoustics, macrosonics, flow acoustics, atmospheric sound, underwater sound, ultrasonics, physical acoustics, structural acoustics, noise control, active control, environmental noise, building acoustics, room acoustics, acoustic materials, acoustic signal processing, computational and numerical acoustics, hearing, audiology and psychoacoustics, speech, musical acoustics, electroacoustics, auditory quality of systems. It reports on original scientific research in acoustics and on engineering applications. The journal considers scientific papers, technical and applied papers, book reviews, short communications, doctoral thesis abstracts, etc. In irregular intervals also special issues and review articles are published.
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