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Old 12th November 2009, 03:54 PM   #1
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Default basilar membranes, organs of corti, and cochlear nerves

Can an audiologist measure the frequency response of an individual's hearing with any real accuracy nowadays?

There is, obviously, not a hell of a lot that diy audiologists can do about these links in the chain beyond just living with them. But my last post (sorry folks) led me into quite a few threads concerning measurement and "voicing" methods. For example.....
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I DO NOT want to dive into any rabbit holes again here by disputing any one "method". Right up front, I see the reason in some combination of measured, in box, response, and tuning your own personal finished project "by ear" to suit your tastes.

But I do wonder why there is so little consideration given to measurement of this part of our "component system". I'm in my late 40's. My most recent visit to an audiologist suggested that my hearing was just slightly better than the average for my age. My loss was measurable, but more interestingly, it was unique. Although for the most part age related hearing loss shows up in somewhat predictable frequencies, my lifestyle, experiences, illnesses, antibiotic use (some are ototoxic), etc, have rendered my personal frequency response.

After sitting in a booth and stabbing a button every time I heard any in a long series of test tones of varying frequency and level, a chart ground out of the office printer with my results. I asked the doctor about the accuracy of these tests since I suspected myself of unconscious cheating (stabbing at any ghost of a signal for the sake of improving my score). He said that tendency is factored in the algorithms as best as can be predicted, but admitted that the results are still going to be pretty general in terms of accuracy. Obviously for anyone who wanted more accuracy a dozen or so runs through the test with averaged results would come be pretty close.

I didn't ask the doc if there were any more sophisticated methods of measuring one's personal frequency response, but since I am somewhat interested in speaker building, the fact that even anything exists is intriguing.

Wouldn't such a chart be a useful tool for modeling an ideal response for one's personal speaker design as long as measurements are so painstakingly being established at each step anyway? If I have a pretty marked dip at 2K for instance, why not account for that in my final design. Someone who has a lot of confidence in his ability to tune "by ear" alone is going to say that he's automatically doing that anyway, and the proof would be in measuring the final response and comparing it to an audiologist's test. Why not just start with the audiologists graph?

All of this also might suggest that some of the conviction that measurements "by ear" for the purposes of offering a final design on the web, or for presentation to the commercial public, is somewhat moot. Since we all are stuck with hardware inside our ears with a demonstrably unique frequency response, isn't the best that anyone ought to strive for in "voicing" a speaker for anyone except himself going to be something close to a common baseline (other considerations aside such as compensation for broadly recognized characteristics of alum cones, etc, etc)?

Last edited by peace brainerd; 12th November 2009 at 04:04 PM.
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Old 12th November 2009, 04:16 PM   #2
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Well, a reread of my post begs the first question. Ha! (the dizzying hermeneutic circle has already begun).

If I'm interested in reproducing the full orchestra of what I (big I) hear (and don't, with my specific hearing loss) in a live experience, then the whole matter that I've described above is a useless exercise. I've already lost a bit of that horn section or that range in vocals. Why would I want to change that "reality" upon reproduction?

Or could it be that the speakers that I built might actually enable me to hear once again (or at least some close reattenuation of) the presentation that I did twenty years ago?

Last edited by peace brainerd; 12th November 2009 at 04:20 PM.
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Old 12th November 2009, 05:51 PM   #3
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You can have a 'brain stem audio test' done; you have no voluntary control over those results. A friend of mine was required to have one to get out of military service, & they don't trust you not to cheat. Basically it involves electrodes rather than asking you to push a button.
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Old 12th November 2009, 06:21 PM   #4
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A quick googling of a brain stem audio test, or ABR, gave me this from a medical website...

" ABR is not a test of hearing; it is a test of neural synchrony. In other words, it is a test of how well the auditory nerve works."

It doesn't appear, at least at first glance, that this test can measure specific frequencies, but only that the basic machinery is working. Perhaps akin to discovery of whether and how much water is flowing in a pipe, but little about it's quality. Exacting measurments of the frequency response of our "hardware" is probably always going to be a little subjective, unless it could somehow be done (invasively) between the auditory nerve and the brain.

Last edited by peace brainerd; 12th November 2009 at 06:24 PM.
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Old 12th November 2009, 08:45 PM   #5
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Excessive imo. Enjoy building and listening to speakers, make them sound as good as you can to your ears, remember that what you think you are hearing is probably more important than what you are really hearing on a "mechanical" level
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Old 12th November 2009, 08:49 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by svejkovat View Post
In other words, it is a test of how well the auditory nerve works.
Ah, I see. That makes more sense in regard to the particular case I knew of.

When I had hearing tests, I always thought it would be easier to identify the faint tones if they were somehow modulated by a (say) 0.5Hz square-wave (on-of-on-off....). That would make it easier to identify them out of the constant background 'noise' present in (my) hearing.
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