Cochlear hearing loss is often associated with a loss of basilar-membrane (BM) compression, which in turn may contribute to degraded processing of suprathreshold stimuli. Behavioral estimates of compression may therefore be useful as long as they are valid over a wide range of levels and frequencies. Additivity of forward masking (AFM) may provide such a measure, but research to date lacks normative data from normal-hearing (NH) listeners at high sound levels, which is necessary to evaluate data from hearing-impaired (HI) listeners. The present study measured AFM in six NH listeners for signal frequencies of 500, 1500, and 4000 Hz in the presence of background noise, designed to elevate signal thresholds to levels similar to those experienced by HI listeners. Results consistent with compressive BM responses were found for all six listeners at 500 Hz, five listeners at 1500 Hz, but only two listeners at 4000 Hz. Further measurements in the absence of background noise also indicated a lack of consistent compression at 4000 Hz at higher signal levels, in contrast to earlier results collected at lower levels. A better understanding of this issue will be required before AFM can be used as a general behavioral estimate of BM compression.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the NIH Grant No. R01 DC 03909. The authors thank Chris Plack, Magdalena Wojtczak, and two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.