Speech recognition in noisy environments improves when the speech signal is spatially separated from the interfering sound. This effect, known as spatial release from masking (SRM), was recently shown in young children. The present study compared SRM in children of ages 5–7 with adults for interferers introducing energetic, informational, and/or linguistic components. Three types of interferers were used: speech, reversed speech, and modulated white noise. Two female voices with different long-term spectra were also used. Speech reception thresholds (SRTs) were compared for: Quiet (target 0° front, no interferer), Front (target and interferer both 0° front), and Right (interferer 90° right, target 0° front). Children had higher SRTs and greater masking than adults. When spatial cues were not available, adults, but not children, were able to use differences in interferer type to separate the target from the interferer. Both children and adults showed SRM. Children, unlike adults, demonstrated large amounts of SRM for a time-reversed speech interferer. In conclusion, masking and SRM vary with the type of interfering sound, and this variation interacts with age; SRM may not depend on the spectral peculiarities of a particular type of voice when the target speech and interfering speech are different sex talkers.

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