We are very happy to announce the next speaker in the Nottingham Hearing Sciences Seminar series Prof. Christian Lorenzi, professor
of experimental psychology at the École normale supérieure (ENS, Paris Sciences & Lettres University) will be speaking on “Auditory perception of natural soundscapes by normal-hearing and hearing-impaired listeners” at 2pm
(GMT) on the 15th of June (15/6/2023). The seminar will be held over MS Teams:
Christian Lorenzi was initially trained as an experimental psychologist and auditory psychophysicist at the
University Lyon II in France, and as a postdoctoral auditory scientist at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge and at the Institute of Hearing Research in Glasgow (UK).
Christian Lorenzi is conducting an interdisciplinary research programme on human auditory perception. This programme combines
various methods from psychophysics, neurosciences, signal processing and computational modelling of the auditory system. Christian Lorenzi studies how humans detect, discriminate and recognise natural sounds such as speech or soundscapes. He
studies the auditory perception of two types of temporal modulations of the acoustic signal, the temporal envelope and temporal fine structure. He
examines the role of these two cues in auditory scene analysis and sound discrimination, how these cues are processed at each stage of the auditory system, and the effects of peripheral or central damage, ageing and rehabilitation systems on the perception
of these temporal cues.
His more recent work has taken an ecological perspective and now focuses on the auditory perception of “natural
soundscapes” such as those produced by forests or deserts. He explores our ability to discriminate these soundscapes, perceive changes in habitat, moment of the day, season and biodiversity, and the effects of sensorineural hearing loss on these capacities.
Auditory perception of natural soundscapes by normal-hearing and hearing-impaired listeners. Christian Lorenzi,
Laboratoire des systèmes perceptifs (UMR CNRS 8248), Ecole normale supérieure, Université Paris Sciences & Lettres, Paris, France.
“Natural soundscapes” correspond to complex arrangements of biological and geophysical sounds shaped by
habitat-specific sound propagation effects, with marginal contribution of sounds generated by human activity (Grinfeder et al., 2022). The capacity to build a “perceptual soundscape” should be useful for mapping the close environment, navigating, assessing
resources and danger, or more simply building a sense of place and time. However, despite the high adaptive and psychological value of processing natural soundscapes, very little is known about the auditory cues and mechanisms at work for humans (Thoret et
al., 2020). This is true not only for typical (normal) hearing but also for all forms of hearing disorders. This is quite surprising given the numerous benefits of exposure to natural sounds, such as improved health and cognitive outcomes, positive affect
and decreased stress and annoyance. The goal of the present study was to assess natural soundscape discrimination for human listeners with sensorineural hearing loss. The ability to discriminate natural soundscapes recorded in a temperate terrestrial biome
(Krause et al., 2011; Thoret et al., 2020) was measured in a group of hearing-impaired (HI) listeners with bilateral, mild to severe sensorineural hearing loss and a group of normal-hearing (NH) controls. Soundscape discrimination was measured using a three-interval
oddity paradigm and the method of constant stimuli (Apoux et al., 2023). On each trial, sequences of 2-second recordings varying the habitat, season and period of the day were presented diotically at a nominal SPL of 60 dB except for one HI listener who was
tested at a nominal SPL of 80 dB. Discrimination scores were above chance level for both groups, but they were poorer for HI than NH listeners. On average, the scores of HI listeners were relatively well accounted for by those of NH listeners tested with stimuli
spectrally shaped to match the frequency-dependent reduction in audibility of individual HI listeners. However, the scores of HI listeners were not significantly correlated with pure-tone audiometric thresholds and age. These results indicate that the ability
to discriminate natural soundscapes associated with changes in habitat, season and period of the day is disrupted but it is not abolished. The deficits of the HI listeners are partly accounted for by reduced audibility. Supra-threshold auditory deficits and
individual listening strategies may also explain differences between NH and HI listeners. The implications for hearing aid rehabilitation will be discussed.
Apoux, F., Miller-Viacava, N., Férriere, R., Dai, H., Krause, B., Sueur, J. & Lorenzi,
C. (2023). Auditory discrimination of natural soundscapes. J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 153, 2706-2723.
Grinfeder, E., Lorenzi, C., Haupert, S., Sueur, J. 2022. What do we mean by “soundscape”?
A functional description. Front. Ecol. Evol., 10, 894232 doi: 10.3389/fevo.2022.894232
Krause, B., Gage, S.H., Joo, W., 2011. Measuring and interpreting the temporal variability
in the soundscape at four places in Sequoia National Park. Landsc. Ecol., 26, 1247-1256.
Thoret, E., Varnet, L., Boubenec, Y., Ferriere, R., Le Tourneau, F.-M., Krause, B., Lorenzi,
C., 2020. Characterizing amplitude and frequency modulation cues in natural soundscapes: A pilot study in four habitats of a biosphere reserve. J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 147, 3260-3274.
Hearing Sciences – Scottish Section,
Mental Health and Clinical Neurosciences, School of Medicine
University of Nottingham
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