Dynamic-range compression acting independently at each ear in a bilateral hearing-aid or cochlear-implant fitting can alter interaural level differences (ILDs) potentially affecting spatial perception. The influence of compression on the lateral position of sounds was studied in normal-hearing listeners using virtual acoustic stimuli. In a lateralization task, listeners indicated the leftmost and rightmost extents of the auditory event and reported whether they heard (1) a single, stationary image, (2) a moving/gradually broadening image, or (3) a split image. Fast-acting compression significantly affected the perceived position of high-pass sounds. For sounds with abrupt onsets and offsets, compression shifted the entire image to a more central position. For sounds containing gradual onsets and offsets, including speech, compression increased the occurrence of moving and split images by up to 57 percentage points and increased the perceived lateral extent of the auditory event. The severity of the effects was reduced when undisturbed low-frequency binaural cues were made available. At high frequencies, listeners gave increased weight to ILDs relative to interaural time differences carried in the envelope when compression caused ILDs to change dynamically at low rates, although individual differences were apparent. Specific conditions are identified in which compression is likely to affect spatial perception.
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