Psychophysical estimates of compression often assume that the basilar-membrane response to frequencies well below characteristic frequency ?CF? is linear. Two techniques for estimating compression are described here that do not depend on this assumption at low CFs. In experiment 1, growth of forward masking was measured for both on- and off-frequency pure-tone maskers for pure-tone signals at 250, 500, and 4000 Hz. The on- and off-frequency masking functions at 250 and 500 Hz were just as shallow as the on-frequency masking function at 4000 Hz. In experiment 2, the forward masker level required to mask a fixed low-level signal was measured as a function of the masker–signal interval. The slopes of these functions did not differ between signal frequencies of 250 and 4000 Hz for the on-frequency maskers. At 250 Hz, the slope for the 150-Hz masker was almost as steep as that for the on-frequency masker, whereas at 4000 Hz the slope for the 2400-Hz masker was much shallower than that for the on-frequency masker. The results suggest that there is substantial compression, of around 0.2–0.3 dB/dB, at low CFs in the human auditory system. Furthermore, the results suggest that at low CFs compression does not vary greatly with stimulation frequency relative to CF.
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