Volume 113, Issue 4, April 2003
Index of content:
- SPEECH PERCEPTION 
Recovery from prior stimulation: Masking of speech by interrupted noise for younger and older adults with normal hearing113(2003); http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.1555611View Description Hide Description
In a previous study [Dubno et al., J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 111, 2897–2907 (2002)], older subjects benefitted less than younger subjects from momentary improvements in signal-to-noise ratio when listening to speech in interrupted maskers. It has been hypothesized that the benefit derived from interrupted maskers may be related to recovery from forward masking, i.e., the recovery of a response to a suprathreshold signal from prior stimulation by a masker. The effect of interrupted maskers on speech recognition may be well suited to test hypotheses regarding recovery from prior stimulation, given that both involve the perception of signals following a masker. Here, younger and older adults with normal but not identical audiograms listened to nonsense syllables at moderate and high levels in a speech-shaped noise that was modulated by a 2-, 10-, 25-, or 50-Hz square wave. An additional low-level noise was always present that was shaped to produce equivalent masked thresholds for all subjects. To assess recovery from forward masking, forward-masked thresholds were measured at 0.5 and 4.0 kHz as a function of the delay between the speech-shaped masker and the signal. Speech recognition in interrupted noise was poorer for older than younger subjects. Small but consistent age-related differences were observed in the decrease in score with interrupted noise relative to the score without interrupted noise. Forward-masked thresholds of older subjects were higher than those of younger subjects, but there were no age-related differences in the amount of forward masking or in simultaneous masking. Negative correlations were observed between speech-recognition scores in interrupted noise and forward-masked thresholds. That is, the benefit derived from momentary improvements in speech audibility in an interrupted noise decreased as forward-masked thresholds increased. Stronger correlations with forward masking were observed for the higher frequency signal, for higher noise interruption rates, and when the signal-to-noise ratio was poor. Comparisons of speech-recognition scores at moderate and high levels for younger and older subjects were not consistent with the hypothesis of an age-related difference in the contribution of low-spontaneous-rate fibers to speech recognition in interrupted noise.