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Authors Ihlefeld A, Litovsky RY
Author Profile(s)
Journal PLoS ONE Volume: 7 Issue: 9 Pages: e45296
Publish Date 2012
PubMed ID 23028914
PMC ID 3447935

Spatial release from masking refers to a benefit for speech understanding. It occurs when a target talker and a masker talker are spatially separated. In those cases, speech intelligibility for target speech is typically higher than when both talkers are at the same location. In cochlear implant listeners, spatial release from masking is much reduced or absent compared with normal hearing listeners. Perhaps this reduced spatial release occurs because cochlear implant listeners cannot effectively attend to spatial cues. Three experiments examined factors that may interfere with deploying spatial attention to a target talker masked by another talker. To simulate cochlear implant listening, stimuli were vocoded with two unique features. First, we used 50-Hz low-pass filtered speech envelopes and noise carriers, strongly reducing the possibility of temporal pitch cues; second, co-modulation was imposed on target and masker utterances to enhance perceptual fusion between the two sources. Stimuli were presented over headphones. Experiments 1 and 2 presented high-fidelity spatial cues with unprocessed and vocoded speech. Experiment 3 maintained faithful long-term average interaural level differences but presented scrambled interaural time differences with vocoded speech. Results show a robust spatial release from masking in Experiments 1 and 2, and a greatly reduced spatial release in Experiment 3. Faithful long-term average interaural level differences were insufficient for producing spatial release from masking. This suggests that appropriate interaural time differences are necessary for restoring spatial release from masking, at least for a situation where there are few viable alternative segregation cues.

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