Spatial release from speech-on-speech masking in the median sagittal plane.
ABSTRACT Several studies have described a release from speech-on-speech masking associated with separation of target and masker sources in the median sagittal plane. Some have excluded the possibility that small differences between target and masker interaural time disparities can fully account for this release. This study explored the mechanisms underlying the spatial release from speech-on-speech masking that can be obtained in the absence of such differences. In one condition, interaural time disparities were removed from the nominal median-sagittal-plane, head-related impulse responses used to generate the virtual auditory space within which competing sentences were presented. In other conditions, interaural level and spectral disparities also were manipulated by presenting competing sentences monaurally or diotically after convolution with one ear's head-related impulse responses. It was found that substantial spatial release from masking can be obtained in the absence of any interaural disparities and that such disparities probably make a relatively minor contribution to spatial release from speech-on-speech masking in the median sagittal plane. It is argued that this release from masking is driven primarily by a reduction in informational masking that occurs when monaural information at one, or both, of the listener's ears facilitates differentiation of competing sentences that emanate from spatially separated sources.