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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Neuroscience - Physics - Science Policy

Spectro-Temporal Weighting of Loudness
Published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Author: Daniel Oberfeld et al.

by Daniel Oberfeld, Wiebke Heeren, Jan Rennies, Jesko Verhey

Real-world sounds like speech or traffic noise typically exhibit spectro-temporal variability because the energy in different spectral regions evolves differently as a sound unfolds in time. However, it is currently not well understood how the energy in different spectral and temporal portions contributes to loudness. This study investigated how listeners weight different temporal and spectral components of a sound when judging its overall loudness. Spectral weights were measured for the combination of three loudness-matched narrowband noises with different center frequencies. To measure temporal weights, 1,020-ms stimuli were presented, which randomly changed in level every 100 ms. Temporal weights were measured for each narrowband noise separately, and for a broadband noise containing the combination of the three noise bands. Finally, spectro-temporal weights were measured with stimuli where the level of the three narrowband noises randomly and independently changed every 100 ms. The data consistently showed that (i) the first 300 ms of the sounds had a greater influence on overall loudness perception than later temporal portions (primacy effect), and (ii) the lowest noise band contributed significantly more to overall loudness than the higher bands. The temporal weights did not differ between the three frequency bands. Notably, the spectral weights and temporal weights estimated from the conditions with only spectral or only temporal variability were very similar to the corresponding weights estimated in the spectro-temporal condition. The results indicate that the temporal and the spectral weighting of the loudness of a time-varying sound are independent processes. The spectral weights remain constant across time, and the temporal weights do not change across frequency. The results are discussed in the context of current loudness models.