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Hear Res. 2002 Mar;165(1-2):103-16.

The relative role of beats and combination tones in determining the shapes of masking patterns: II. Hearing-impaired listeners.

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  • 1Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, CB2 3EB, UK.


Masking patterns were measured for hearing-impaired subjects with varying degrees of hearing loss. In one set of conditions, three subjects were tested using narrowband noise ('noise') and sinusoidal ('tone') maskers and narrowband noise signals. The maskers had centre frequencies of 0.25, 0.5, 1.0 and 4.0 kHz and levels of 60, 80 and 100 dB SPL. Masking patterns for both the noise and tone maskers showed irregularities ('dips'), especially for signal frequencies up to 500 Hz above the masker frequency. The irregularities occurred for all masker levels and for all subjects for at least one masker frequency and they occurred for a relatively constant range of masker-signal frequency separations, suggesting that they were the result of beat detection. In another set of conditions, masking patterns were measured using two subjects, for a 2.0-kHz tone masker with a level of 100 dB SPL and tone and noise signals. For the tone masker alone (baseline condition), the masking patterns again exhibited prominent dips above, and sometimes below, the masker frequency. The addition of a lowpass noise to the masker, intended to mask combination tones, had little effect for one subject. For the other subject, who had near-normal absolute thresholds at low frequencies, the noise elevated thresholds for masker-signal frequency separations between 500 and 1500 Hz. For this subject, an extra tone with a frequency equal to the masker-signal frequency separation, added in place of the lowpass noise, had a very similar effect to that produced by the lowpass noise, suggesting that he was detecting a simple difference tone in the baseline condition. The addition of a pair of high-frequency tones (MDI tones - intended to reduce the detectability of beats) to the masker elevated thresholds for signal frequencies from 1500 to 2500 Hz for one subject and from 1500 to 3500 Hz for another subject. The addition of lowpass noise and MDI tones to the masker produced masking patterns very similar to those observed when the MDI tones alone were added to the masker. Overall, the results suggest that the irregularities in the masking patterns were caused mainly by the detection of beats and not by the detection of combination tones.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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