The main purpose of this study was to describe and compare lateralization of earphone-presented stimuli in younger and older individuals. Lateralization functions, relating perceived location to either interaural time differences (ITDs) or interaural level differences (ILDs) were determined for 78 subjects, aged 21-88 years, who responded by pressing one of nine keys to indicate the perceived location of the stimulus. All subjects were healthy, without any history of hearing loss or ear surgery and within the normal pure tone audiometric range for their age group. Interaural pure tone and click thresholds did not differ by more than 5 dB across ears. The ILD lateralization functions, ranging from 10 dB favoring the left ear to 10 dB favoring the right ear were linear. In contrast, the ITD lateralization functions were S-shaped with a clear linear component ranging from 750 μs favoring one ear to 750 μs favoring the other ear and with an asymptote from 750 μs to 1 ms. The same general shape of the ITD and ILD lateralization functions was found at all ages, but the linear slope of the ITD lateralization function became shallower with age. The ability to discriminate midline-located click trains (ITD and ILD=0) from ITD-lateralized click trains deteriorated with age, while the comparable ability to discriminate ILD-lateralized click trains did not change significantly with age. The data support two general conclusions. First there seems to be an overall reduction in the range of ITD-based lateralization due to aging. Second, there is a greater reduction in sensitivity due to aging in changes from the perceived midline position (ITD and ILD=0) when ITD is manipulated than when ILD is manipulated.
- Click lateralization