Digital earplug for brain plasticity research

Marc Schönwiesner, Jérémie Voix, Philippe Pango


This paper will present the feasibility of utilizing a miniaturized, real-time, in-ear, digital signal processing devices to investigate experience-dependent brain plasticity in the humans. An important component of this trial is the use of a recently developed digital hearing protector (from Sonomax, Montreal, QC) made with a custom earpiece that is instantly fitted to the user's ear, tested for attenuation and then equipped with a miniaturized set of microphone, receiver and Digital Signal Processor. The DSP is a versatile audio platform, originally designed for hearing aid applications, but that has also been successfully programmed for several other applications like a non-linear earplug (offering more attenuation when the ambient noise is higher) and as a musician's earplug (offering a constant attenuation over a wide frequency range together with a loudness correction). The central idea of the current study is to use such digital earplugs to change a person's sound perception, in real-time, in- and outside of the laboratory. Various time and frequency manipulations will be performed on the signal pick-up by the microphone and transmitted to the subject's ear by the receiver, while monitoring the brain plasticity with neuroimaging techniques. Preliminary results using a notch filter demonstrate tonotopic reorganization following sensory modification in the human auditory cortex.


Audio acoustics; Computer crime; Digital signal processors; Hearing aids; Microphones; Patient monitoring; Plasticity; Plasticity testing; Signal processing; Signal receivers; Ambient noise; Auditory cortex; Brain plasticity; Digital signal processing devices; Hearing aid; Hearing protectors; Neuroimaging techniques; Non-linear; Other applications; Sound perception; Wide frequency range

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