Informational masking of speech by time-varying competitors: Effects of frequency region and number of interfering formants

Brian Roberts, Robert J. Summers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explored the extent to which informational masking of speech depends on the frequency region and number of extraneous formants in an interferer. Target formants—monotonized three-formant (F1+F2+F3) analogues of natural sentences—were presented monaurally, with target ear assigned randomly on each trial. Interferers were presented contralaterally. In experiment 1, single-formant interferers were created using the time-reversed F2 frequency contour and constant amplitude, root-mean-square (RMS)-matched to F2. Interferer center frequency was matched to that of F1, F2, or F3, while maintaining the extent of formant-frequency variation (depth) on a log scale. Adding an interferer lowered intelligibility; the effect of frequency region was small and broadly tuned around F2. In experiment 2, interferers comprised either one formant (F1, the most intense) or all three, created using the time-reversed frequency contours of the corresponding targets and RMS-matched constant amplitudes. Interferer formant-frequency variation was scaled to 0%, 50%, or 100% of the original depth. Increasing the depth of formant-frequency variation and number of formants in the interferer had independent and additive effects. These findings suggest that the impact on intelligibility depends primarily on the overall extent of frequency variation in each interfering formant (up to ∼100% depth) and the number of extraneous formants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)891-900
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number2
Early online date1 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright: 2018 Author(s). All article content, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (

Funding: Research Grant No. ES/ N014383/1 from the Economic and Social Research Council


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