Despite clinically normal audiometric thresholds, some older adults may experience difficulty in tasks such as understanding speech in a noisy environment. One potential reason may be reduced cochlear nonlinearity. A sensitive measure of cochlear nonlinearity is two-tone suppression, which is a reduction in the auditory system's response to one tone in the presence of a second tone. Previous research has been mixed on whether suppression decreases with age in humans. Studies of efferent cochlear gain reduction also suggest that stimulus duration should be considered in measuring suppression. In the present study, suppression was first measured psychoacoustically using stimuli that were too short to result in gain reduction. The potential effect of efferent cochlear gain reduction was then measured by using longer stimuli and presenting tonal or noise precursors before the shorter stimuli. Younger adults (ages 19–22 yr) and older adults (ages 57+ yr) with clinically normal hearing were tested. Suppression estimates decreased with longer stimuli or preceding sound which included the signal frequency, but did not decrease with preceding sound at the suppressor frequency. On average, the older group had lower suppression than the younger group, but this difference was not statistically significant.

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