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J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2013 Aug;14(4):603-10. doi: 10.1007/s10162-013-0392-1. Epub 2013 May 7.

An energetic limit on spatial release from masking.

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  • 1Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences and Hearing Research Center, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


This study tested the hypothesis that energetic masking limits the benefits obtained from spatial separation in multiple-talker listening situations, particularly for listeners with sensorineural hearing loss. A speech target was presented simultaneously with two or four speech maskers. The target was always presented diotically, and the maskers were either presented diotically or dichotically. In dichotic configurations, the maskers were symmetrically placed by introducing interaural time differences (ITDs) or infinitely large interaural level differences (ILDs; monaural presentation). Target-to-masker ratios for 50 % correct were estimated. Thresholds in all separated conditions were poorer in listeners with hearing loss than listeners with normal hearing. Moreover, for a given listener, thresholds were similar for conditions with the same number of talkers per ear (e.g., ILD with four talkers equivalent to ITD with two talkers) and hence the same energetic masking. The results are consistent with the idea that increased energetic masking, rather than a specific spatial deficit, may limit performance for hearing-impaired listeners in spatialized speech mixtures.

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