Loss of high- or low-frequency audibility can partially explain effects of hearing loss on emotional responses to non-speech sounds
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Hearing loss can disrupt emotional responses to sound. However, the impact of stimulus modality (multisensory versus unisensory) on this disruption, and the underlying mechanisms responsible, are unclear. The purposes of this project were to evaluate the effects of stimulus modality and filtering on emotional responses to non-speech stimuli. It was hypothesized that low- and high-pass filtering would result in less extreme ratings, but only for unisensory stimuli. Twenty-four adults (22- 34 years old; 12 male) with normal hearing participated. Participants made ratings of valence and arousal in response to pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant non-speech sounds and/or pictures. Each participant completed ratings of five stimulus modalities: auditory-only, visual-only, auditory-visual, filtered auditory-only, and filtered auditory-visual. Half of the participants rated low-pass filtered stimuli (800 Hz cutoff), and half of the participants rated high-pass filtered stimuli (2000 Hz cutoff). Combining auditory and visual modalities resulted in more extreme (more pleasant and more unpleasant) ratings of valence in response to pleasant and unpleasant stimuli. In addition, low- and high-pass filtering of sounds resulted in less extreme ratings of valence (less pleasant and less unpleasant) and arousal (less exciting) in response to both auditory-only and auditory-visual stimuli. These results suggest that changes in audible spectral information are partially responsible for the noted changes in emotional responses to sound that accompany hearing loss. The findings also suggest the effects of hearing loss will generalize to multisensory stimuli if the stimuli include sound, although further work is warranted to confirm this in listeners with hearing loss.