Applying the modulation theory to hearing

One of the most influential research programs in hearing sciences aims to  apply the modulation theory to auditory perception. This theory, inspired by telecommunication sciences, relies on the following ‘core’ assumptions: (i) communication sounds including speech and animal vocalizations convey salient and slow temporal modulation cues; (ii) the auditory system of species using communication sounds has evolved to optimize its responses to these modulation cues; (iii) the transmission  of information conveyed by communication signals is constrained by the ‘modulation transfer function’ (MTF) of the transmission path (a room, a hearing aid,…). We will show how the psychophysical and neurophysiological investigation of modulation perception by humans and by other species contributed to an in-depth understanding of the demodulation processes implemented in the peripheral and central auditory system. We will show how this work yielded models of modulation processing that account for a large range of listening situations including speech comprehension in quiet and in noise. Finally, we will show how his work contributed to a better understanding of the perceptual consequences of ageing and cochlear damage, and a better control of information transmission via rehabilitation systems.