Binaural Interference: Quo Vadis?

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The reality of the phenomenon of binaural interference with speech recognition has been debated for two decades. Research has taken one of two avenues; group studies or case reports. In group studies, a sample of the elderly population is tested on speech recognition under three conditions; binaural, monaural right and monaural left. The aim is to determine the percent of the sample in which the expected outcome (binaural score-better-than-either-monaural score) is reversed (i.e., one of the monaural scores is better than the binaural score). This outcome has been commonly used to define binaural interference. The object of group studies is to answer the “how many” question, what is the prevalence of binaural interference in the sample.

In case reports the binaural interference conclusion suggested by the speech recognition tests is not accepted until it has been corroborated by other independent diagnostic audiological measures. The aim is to attempt to determine the basis for the findings, to answer the “why” question.

This article is at once tutorial, editorial and a case report. We argue that it is time to accept the reality of the phenomenon of binaural interference, to eschew group statistical approaches in search of an answer to the “how many” question, and to focus on individual case reports in search of an answer to the “why” question.

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