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Human Click-Based Echolocation of Distance: Superfine Acuity and Dynamic Clicking Behaviour

Thaler, L.; De Vos, H.P.J.C.; Kish, D.; Antoniou, M.; Baker, C.J.; Hornikx, M.C.J.

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H.P.J.C. De Vos

D. Kish

M. Antoniou

C.J. Baker

M.C.J. Hornikx


Some people who are blind have trained themselves in echolocation using mouth clicks. Here, we provide the first report of psychophysical and clicking data during echolocation of distance from a group of 8 blind people with experience in mouth click-based echolocation (daily use for > 3 years). We found that experienced echolocators can detect changes in distance of 3 cm at a reference distance of 50 cm, and a change of 7 cm at a reference distance of 150 cm, regardless of object size (i.e. 28.5 cm vs. 80 cm diameter disk). Participants made mouth clicks that were more intense and they made more clicks for weaker reflectors (i.e. same object at farther distance, or smaller object at same distance), but number and intensity of clicks were adjusted independently from one another. The acuity we found is better than previous estimates based on samples of sighted participants without experience in echolocation or individual experienced participants (i.e. single blind echolocators tested) and highlights adaptation of the perceptual system in blind human echolocators. Further, the dynamic adaptive clicking behaviour we observed suggests that number and intensity of emissions serve separate functions to increase SNR. The data may serve as an inspiration for low-cost (i.e. non-array based) artificial ‘cognitive’ sonar and radar systems, i.e. signal design, adaptive pulse repetition rate and intensity. It will also be useful for instruction and guidance for new users of echolocation.


Thaler, L., De Vos, H., Kish, D., Antoniou, M., Baker, C., & Hornikx, M. (2019). Human Click-Based Echolocation of Distance: Superfine Acuity and Dynamic Clicking Behaviour. Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology, 20(5), 499-510.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 5, 2019
Online Publication Date Jul 8, 2019
Publication Date Oct 31, 2019
Deposit Date Jun 21, 2019
Publicly Available Date Jul 19, 2019
Journal Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology : JARO.
Print ISSN 1525-3961
Electronic ISSN 1438-7573
Publisher Springer
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 20
Issue 5
Pages 499-510


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Advance online version © The Author(s) 2019. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

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