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Re: hearing sudden distortion effect

Alright, I will jump in. In my early thirties I began to notice “thumping” in my left ear, which I attribute to the middle-ear acoustic reflex. It is always correlated to a moderately intense auditory signal and is most noticeable for certain high pass (and high frequency [>1kHz] narrowband) sounds modulated at slow rates. I first noticed this when experimenting with homebrew analog synthesizers. An interesting aspect (to me) is that I can reduce the annoyance by changing my orientation to the sound, which could be due to changing intensity in the two ears, to some binaural effect, or maybe just due to attention. I have not done any systematic testing, but informally the binaural configuration seems to matter. 

These, days, I mainly experience this thumping while giving tours of our anechoic chamber lab. Certain voices produce very clear and disturbing monaural thumping. The effect is most disturbing in my left ear, when my right ear is directed to the talker. I can minimize the effect by facing the talker directly. This makes me think that the thumping percept is evoked by contralateral or binaural triggering of the middle ear acoustic reflex, mainly when the affected ear is itself only weakly stimulated (facing away from the source, in anechoic space where reflections cannot fill in the shadowed side of the head).

That all said, I think this is a different percept than the “sudden distortion” described by the original poster (Jim Beauchamp). 

G. Christopher Stecker, Ph.D.

Neuroscience of Binaural and Spatial Hearing
Spatial Audio and Acoustics


> On Oct 4, 2016, at 7:36 AM, Bob Masta <audio@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> Bill:
> I wonder if you are also subject to what I call "thumping" 
> during binaural beats presentations.   I experience this at 
> a center frequency of about 300 Hz and a difference of 
> about 1 Hz. See the "Middle Ear Thumping" subtopic 
> under "Monaural and Binaural Beats Mini-App" at 
> <http://www.daqarta.com/dw_0obb.htm>  
> I don't know how common this is.   I'd love to hear about 
> others' experiences on this test.  You can download and 
> use the Daqarta software on any Windows system.  It's 
> free for this sort of use (output only).  I'd be glad to 
> answer any questions.
> Best regards,
> Bob Masta
> =====================================
> On 2 Oct 2016 at 10:09, William Hartmann wrote:
>> Jim,
>> Sorry about your bad experience.
>> Possibly related: I remember a performance at IRCAM on amplified flute 
>> by Pierre-Yves Artaud. Intense impulsive tones were accompanied by 
>> popping sounds in my ear. Colleagues attributed those to middle ear reflex.
>> Bill
>>  James W. Beauchamp wrote:
>>> Dear List,
>>> In 2009 I acquired chronic low-level high-frequency tinnitus.
>>> Tests rhowed that it was at approximately 11 KHz 10 dB above
>>> threshold. Most of the time I'm not concious of it and it doesn't
>>> affect my enjoyment of music.
>>> Friday night I attended an orchestra concert where they played
>>> Beethoven's "Overture to 'Eqmont'", Bruch's "Scottish Fantasy",
>>> and Shostakovich's "Symphony No. 12" in that order. I enjoyed it
>>> all, but the last piece was especially loud, and near the end of
>>> the last movement I suddenly experienced a loud distortion effect
>>> on certain very loud notes. It had two attributes: 1) It was very
>>> sudden, almost like an amplifier clipping; 2) I perceived the
>>> sounds to be localized very close to my head, rather than coming
>>> from the stage (I was seated about 20 rows from the stage.). The
>>> effect was very disconcerting because it ruined the musical
>>> experience.
>>> This is the first time I've experienced this effect at an orchestra
>>> concert. I remember experiencing something like this in 1978 when a
>>> certain electronic piece by Xennakis was performed at the
>>> International Computer Music Conference at Northwestern Univ. It was
>>> played very loud, and I remember sounds were swirling around my head.
>>> Others had the same experience. This was way before my tinnitus onset,
>>> and I didn't mind it because it seemed like the strange localization
>>> effect was just part of the piece.
>>> Has anyone else experienced this effect? What is the effect called?
>>> Is it related to tinnitus or is it a cause of tinnitus?
>>> Thanks for your help on this question!
>>> Best,
>>>      Jim
>>> James W. Beauchamp
>>> Research Professor
>>> Professor Emeritus of Music and Electrical & Computer Engineering
>>> University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
>>> email: jwbeauch@xxxxxxxxxxxx (also: jwbeauch@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx)
>>> WWW:  http://ems.music.uiuc.edu/beaucham
>>>       http://www.ece.illinois.edu/directory/profile/jwbeauch
> ===============================