Semin Hear 2004; 25(1): 25-37
DOI: 10.1055/s-2004-823045
Copyright © 2004 by Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA.

Simulated Hearing Loss via Masking: Research and Heuristic Applications

John D. Durrant1
  • 1Departments of Communication Science & Disorders and Otolaryngology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Prologue It is with a certain irony and considerable sadness that I write this prologue to this article. It was my pleasure to have counted Tom Tillman among the various professors to whom I owe my professional existence, if not academic advancement. Not surprisingly, I would come back to him some years later, groveling for his help with the second edition of Bases of Hearing Science.1 The idea was to have a leading audiologist, researcher, and educator, like Tom, and ideally Tom himself, to look over the entire book, and summarize and highlight the coverage. This summary we called, “Epilogue.” The choice of Tom for this job derived from a fond respect that I could not have imagined as a first-semester pre-doctoral student at Northwestern University. Tom's orations tended to be a bit on the dry side, while the shadow of his tall narrow frame holding a pointer stick, standing in the light of the overhead projector (for what seemed like an infinity of transparencies), tended to be somewhat comical, recalling Picasso's Don Quixote. To say that he was straight-laced is potentially an understatement, at least from the new student's perspective. In any event, hippy he was not (i.e., as was common for the era). Thus, for our class he was not the professor to whom we naturally flocked. However, the following summer we had a doctoral-level research methods course that exposed us to the breadth and depth of his real character; this course was a seminar that Tom conducted in a disarmingly open and easy-going format. He led and gently prodded us into provocative discussions as we took our first “crack” at writing a research proposal. By summer's end, we had found a remarkably different Tillman than belied by our first impressions during those rather austere core courses in clinical audiology. We now saw him as someone that we were compelled to respect for his enormous research savvy, great breadth of knowledge, professorial skills, and genuine character. We would admire him for a lifetime, albeit a much shorter period of time than we imagined. I am inclined to believe Tom would have been embarrassed by a monograph such as this (such was his modesty), but I would hope that he would have been pleased with its content. I can say with all confidence that he would have been honored by the effort orchestrated by his respected friend and colleague for many years, Dr. Wayne Olsen, to whom I am grateful for this opportunity to honor Tom's memory.
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
02 April 2004 (online)


The traditional view of masking is the effective exclusion of the nontest ear in conventional behavioral audiometry. Various other applications, however, are possible, including evaluations of auditory evoked potentials. General concepts of masking in psychoacoustic and electrophysiologic testing are reviewed, leading to a detailed summary of new techniques developed to improve the diagnostic power of the auditory-brain-stem response (ABR) test in the detection of eighth-nerve testing-the “stacked ABR.” Another application is the use of filter-shaped noise to simulate hearing loss of particular degree and configuration in normal listeners to assess the accuracy of estimates of hearing loss using electric response audiometry (ERA) and test-retest reliability of a given method of ERA. This article reports on the preliminary results of a study on a recently developed method of ERA based on measurement of the auditory steady-state responses (ASSR). These results demonstrate similar estimates of hearing loss among the measures examined-pure-tone audiometry, ERA using the slow vertex potential, and ERA using the ASSR-although ERA estimates tend to exaggerate the loss by several decibels, even in a highly controlled study. Finally, simulated hearing loss is suggested as a tool for the training of audiologists in methods of both behavioral and electric response audiometry, wherein the instructor can provide a variety of degrees and configurations of hearing loss in a highly predictable manner.


John D Durrant

Departments of Communication Science & Disorders and Otolaryngology, University of Pittsburgh

Forbes Tower 4033, Pittsburgh, PA 15260