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Psychophysical tuning curves at very high frequencies.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date10/2005
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Number of pages9
Original languageEnglish


For most normal-hearing listeners, absolute thresholds increase rapidly above about 16 kHz. One hypothesis is that the high-frequency limit of the hearing-threshold curve is imposed by the transmission characteristics of the middle ear, which attenuates the sound input [Masterton et al., J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 45, 966–985 (1969)]. An alternative hypothesis is that the high-frequency limit of hearing is imposed by the tonotopicity of the cochlea [Ruggero and Temchin, Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 99, 13206–13210 (2002)]. The aim of this study was to test these hypotheses. Forward-masked psychophysical tuning curves (PTCs) were derived for signal frequencies of 12–17.5 kHz. For the highest signal frequencies, the high-frequency slopes of some PTCs were steeper than the slope of the hearing-threshold curve. The results also show that the human auditory system displays frequency selectivity for characteristic frequencies (CFs) as high as 17 kHz, above the frequency at which absolute thresholds begin to increase rapidly. The findings suggest that, for CFs up to 17 kHz, the high-frequency limitation in humans is imposed in part by the middle-ear attenuation, and not by the tonotopicity of the cochlea.