On- and off-frequency forward masking by schroeder-phase complexes

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Forward masking by harmonic tone complexes was measured for on- and off-frequency maskers as a function of masker phase curvature for two masker durations (30 and 200 ms). For the lowest signal frequency (1 kHz), the results matched predictions based on the expected interactions between the phase curvature and amplitude compression of peripheral auditory filtering. For the higher signal frequencies (2 and 6 kHz), the data increasingly departed from predictions in two respects. First, the effects of the masker phase curvature became stronger with increasing masker duration, inconsistent with the expected effects of the fast-acting compression and time-invariant phase response of basilar membrane filtering. Second, significant effects of masker phase curvature were observed for the off-frequency masker using a 6-kHz signal, inconsistent with predictions based on linear processing of stimuli well below the signal frequency. New predictions were generated assuming an additional effect with a longer time constant, consistent with the influence of medial olivocochlear efferent activation on otoacoustic emissions in humans. Reasonable agreement between the predicted and the measured effects suggests that efferent activation is a potential candidate mechanism to explain certain spectro-temporal masking effects in human hearing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)595-607
Number of pages13
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by grant R01 DC 03909 from the National Institutes of Health. We thank Amy Olund for her assistance in collecting the data. The authors than the Associate Editor and the reviewers for their helpful comments on the earlier version of the manuscript.


  • Auditory filter phase response
  • Forward masking
  • Medial olivocochlear reflex
  • Peripheral nonlinearity


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