The effect of spatial separation on informational and energetic masking of speech

J Acoust Soc Am. 2002 Nov;112(5 Pt 1):2086-98. doi: 10.1121/1.1510141.


The effect of spatial separation of sources on the masking of a speech signal was investigated for three types of maskers, ranging from energetic to informational. Normal-hearing listeners performed a closed-set speech identification task in the presence of a masker at various signal-to-noise ratios. Stimuli were presented in a quiet sound field. The signal was played from 0 degrees azimuth and a masker was played either from the same location or from 90 degrees to the right. Signals and maskers were derived from sentences that were preprocessed by a modified cochlear-implant simulation program that filtered each sentence into 15 frequency bands, extracted the envelopes from each band, and used these envelopes to modulate pure tones at the center frequencies of the bands. In each trial, the signal was generated by summing together eight randomly selected frequency bands from the preprocessed signal sentence. Three maskers were derived from the preprocessed masker sentences: (1) different-band sentence, which was generated by summing together six randomly selected frequency bands out of the seven bands not present in the signal (resulting in primarily informational masking); (2) different-band noise, which was generated by convolving the different-band sentence with Gaussian noise; and (3) same-band noise, which was generated by summing the same eight bands from the preprocessed masker sentence that were used in the signal sentence and convolving the result with Gaussian noise (resulting in primarily energetic masking). Results revealed that in the different-band sentence masker, the effect of spatial separation averaged 18 dB (at 51% correct), while in the different-band and same-band noise maskers the effect was less than 10 dB. These results suggest that, in these conditions, the advantage due to spatial separation of sources is greater for informational masking than for energetic masking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Audiometry, Pure-Tone
  • Auditory Threshold
  • Humans
  • Noise
  • Perceptual Masking*
  • Psychometrics
  • Speech Perception*