November 24, 2020

An online headphone screening test based on dichotic pitch

Online experimental platforms can be used as an alternative, or complement, to lab-based research. However, when conducting auditory experiments via online methods, the researcher has limited control over the participants’ listening environment. We offer a new method to probe one aspect of that environment, headphone use. Headphones not only provide better control of sound presentation but can also "shield" the listener from background noise. Here we present a rapid (< 3 minute) headphone screening test based on Huggins Pitch (HP), a perceptual phenomenon that can only be detected when stimuli are presented dichotically. We validate this test using a cohort of "Trusted" online participants who completed the test using both headphones and loudspeakers. The same participants also trialled a widely used headphone test (AP test; Woods et al., 2017). We demonstrate that compared to the AP test, the HP test has a higher selectively for headphone users, rendering it as a compelling alternative to the existing screening method. Overall, the new HP test correctly detects 80% of headphone users and has a false positive rate of 20%. Moreover, we demonstrate that there is little overlap between participants who pass both HP and AP tests over loudspeakers. Therefore, combining the two tests can lower the false positive rate to ~7% (but at the expense of an increased false negative rate). This should be useful in situations where headphone use is particularly critical (e.g. dichotic or spatial manipulations). An implementation of the new test is available with JavaScript and through Gorilla (

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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