Aging and the effect of target-masker alignment

Karen S. Helfer, Gabrielle R. Merchant, Richard L. Freyman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Similarity between target and competing speech messages plays a large role in how easy or difficult it is to understand messages of interest. Much research on informational masking has used highly aligned target and masking utterances that are very similar semantically and syntactically. However, listeners rarely encounter situations in real life where they must understand one sentence in the presence of another (or more than one) highly aligned, syntactically similar competing sentence(s). The purpose of the present study was to examine the effect of syntactic/semantic similarity of target and masking speech in different spatial conditions among younger, middle-aged, and older adults. The results of this experiment indicate that differences in speech recognition between older and younger participants were largest when the masker surrounded the target and was more similar to the target, especially at more adverse signal-to-noise ratios. Differences among listeners and the effect of similarity were much less robust, and all listeners were relatively resistant to masking, when maskers were located on one side of the target message. The present results suggest that previous studies using highly aligned stimuli may have overestimated age-related speech recognition problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3844-3853
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics

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