Date of Award

Spring 2007

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Audiology (AuD)


School of Communication

First Advisor

Sheryl Shoemaker


The ability to accurately locate a sound source is crucial in the blind population to orient and mobilize independently in the environment. Sound localization is accomplished by the detection of binaural differences in intensity and time of incoming sound waves along with phase differences and spectral cues. It is dependent on auditory sensitivity and processing. However, localization ability can not be predicted from the audiogram or an auditory processing evaluation.

Auditory information is not received only from objects making sound, but also from objects reflecting sound. Auditory information used in this manner is called echolocation. Echolocation significantly enhances localization in the absence of vision. Research has shown that echolocation is an important form of localization used by the blind to facilitate independent mobility. However, the ability to localize sound is not evaluated in the blind population.

Due to the importance of localization and echolocation for independent mobility in the blind, it would seem appropriate to evaluate the accuracy of this skill set. Echolocation is dependent upon the same auditory processes as localization. More specifically, localization is a precursor to echolocation. Therefore, localization ability will be evaluated in two normal hearing groups, a young normal vision population and young blind population. Both groups will have normal hearing and auditory processing verified by an audiological evaluation that includes a central auditory screening. The localization assessment will be performed using a 24-speaker array in a sound treated chamber with four different testing conditions (1) low-pass broadband stimuli in quiet, (2) low-pass broadband stimuli in noise, (3) high-pass broadband stimuli in quiet, and (4) high-pass broadband speech stimuli in noise.

It is hypothesized that blind individuals may exhibit keener localization skills than their normal vision counterparts, particularly if they are experienced, independent travelers. Results of this study may lead to future research in localization assessment, and possibly localization training for blind individuals.