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J Acoust Soc Am. 2012 Apr;131(4):3103-10. doi: 10.1121/1.3693656.

The influence of non-spatial factors on measures of spatial release from masking.

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Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


This study tested the hypothesis that the reduction in spatial release from masking (SRM) resulting from sensorineural hearing loss in competing speech mixtures is influenced by the characteristics of the interfering speech. A frontal speech target was presented simultaneously with two intelligible or two time-reversed (unintelligible) speech maskers that were either colocated with the target or were symmetrically separated from the target in the horizontal plane. The difference in SRM between listeners with hearing impairment and listeners with normal hearing was substantially larger for the forward maskers (deficit of 5.8 dB) than for the reversed maskers (deficit of 1.6 dB). This was driven by the fact that all listeners, regardless of hearing abilities, performed similarly (and poorly) in the colocated condition with intelligible maskers. The same conditions were then tested in listeners with normal hearing using headphone stimuli that were degraded by noise vocoding. Reducing the number of available spectral channels systematically reduced the measured SRM, and again, more so for forward (reduction of 3.8 dB) than for reversed speech maskers (reduction of 1.8 dB). The results suggest that non-spatial factors can strongly influence both the magnitude of SRM and the apparent deficit in SRM for listeners with impaired hearing.

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