Assessing hearing by measuring heartbeat: The effect of sound level.

Shoushtarian, Mehrnaz; Weder, Stefan; Innes-Brown, Hamish; McKay, Colette M (2019). Assessing hearing by measuring heartbeat: The effect of sound level. PLoS ONE, 14(2), e0212940. Public Library of Science 10.1371/journal.pone.0212940

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Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a non-invasive brain imaging technique that measures changes in oxygenated and de-oxygenated hemoglobin concentration and can provide a measure of brain activity. In addition to neural activity, fNIRS signals contain components that can be used to extract physiological information such as cardiac measures. Previous studies have shown changes in cardiac activity in response to different sounds. This study investigated whether cardiac responses collected using fNIRS differ for different loudness of sounds. fNIRS data were collected from 28 normal hearing participants. Cardiac response measures evoked by broadband, amplitude-modulated sounds were extracted for four sound intensities ranging from near-threshold to comfortably loud levels (15, 40, 65 and 90 dB Sound Pressure Level (SPL)). Following onset of the noise stimulus, heart rate initially decreased for sounds of 15 and 40 dB SPL, reaching a significantly lower rate at 15 dB SPL. For sounds at 65 and 90 dB SPL, increases in heart rate were seen. To quantify the timing of significant changes, inter-beat intervals were assessed. For sounds at 40 dB SPL, an immediate significant change in the first two inter-beat intervals following sound onset was found. At other levels, the most significant change appeared later (beats 3 to 5 following sound onset). In conclusion, changes in heart rate were associated with the level of sound with a clear difference in response to near-threshold sounds compared to comfortably loud sounds. These findings may be used alone or in conjunction with other measures such as fNIRS brain activity for evaluation of hearing ability.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Head Organs and Neurology (DKNS) > Clinic of Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders (ENT)

UniBE Contributor:

Weder, Stefan Andreas


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Public Library of Science




Stefan Weder

Date Deposited:

16 Jan 2020 12:07

Last Modified:

02 Mar 2023 23:32

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:





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