This study examined combinations of energetic and informational maskers in speech identification. Speech targets and maskers (speech or noise) were processed and filtered into sets of 15 narrow frequency bands. The target was the sum of eight randomly selected bands. More masking occurred for speech maskers than for spectrally matched noise maskers regardless of whether the masker bands overlapped the target bands. The greater effect of the speech maskers was interpreted as due to informational masking. When the masker was comprised of nonoverlapping bands of speech, the addition of bands of noise overlapping the speech masker, but not the speech target, reduced the overall amount of masking. Surprisingly, presenting the noise to the ear contralateral to the target and masker produced an even greater release from masking. The contralateral noise was apparently sufficient to cause a slight change in the image of the ipsilateral speech masker, possibly pulling it away from the target enough to allow the focus of attention on the target. This finding is consistent with the interpretation that in some conditions small binaural differences may be sufficient to cause, or significantly strengthen, the perceptual segregation of sounds.
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