Effect of aging and signal frequencies on masking level differences

Debarshi Bandyopadhyay, Indranil Chatterjee, Palash Dutta, Sanghamitra Dey


Background: The typical masking level differences (MLD) paradigm involves homophasic and antiphasic masking conditions. Objectives of the study were to develop homophasic and antiphasic stimulus, to find out the effect of signal frequency and age on MLD when all the antiphasic conditions are compared to the homophasic S0N0 and SπNπ condition and to find out effect of interaural time delay of stimulus on aging.

Methods: 90 participants were divided into 3 groups of young adults, early presbycusic adults and geriatric presbycusic adults. Various stimuli were developed and presented. The MLD were obtained using homophasic and antiphasic stimuli at 4 frequencies 250, 500, 1000 and 2000 Hz. Subsequently, these were statistically analyzed using ANOVA and paired t-test.

Results: All the conditions used in the study had some condition with and without significant differences. However, at 500 Hz in S0N0 homophasic condition all four antiphasic conditions among groups MLD and Interaural time delay between groups showed significant differences were present.

Conclusions: From these findings, the best frequency is 500 Hz as the homophasic S0N0 baseline condition. A significant difference between the groups indicated presence of age-related effect on MLD and interaural time delay, suggesting that age related changes can be observed in the binaural hearing and temporal processing of the signals and can be measured using MLD.


Masking level differences, Binaural masking level difference, Masking, Geriatric hearing, Homophasic antiphasic sound stimulus

Full Text:



Gelfand S. Masking. In Hearing. New York: Marcel Dekker. 2004;4.

Hirsh I. Influence of interaural phase on interaural summation and inhibition. J Acoust Soc Am. 1948;20:536-44.

Anderson S, Ellis R, Mehta J, Goupell MJ. Age-related differences in binaural masking level differences: behavioral and electrophysiological evidence. J Neurophysiol. 2018;120(6):2939-52.

McFadden D. Masking level differences determined with and without interaural disparities in masker intensity. J Acoust Soc Am. 1968;44:212-3.

Durlach N, Colburn H. Binaural phenomena. In Carterette EC, Friedman MP (Eds.), Handbook of perception: Hearing. London: Academic Press. 1978; 4.

Webster F. The influence of interaural phase on masked thresholds I. The Role of interaural time deviation. J Acoust Soc Am. 1951;23:452.

Fowler CG. Electrophysiological Evidence for the Sources of the Masking Level Difference. J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2017;60(8):2364-74.

Licklider J. The influence of interaural phase relations upon the masking of speech by white noise. J Acoust Soc Am. 1948;20:150-9.

Ho CY, Li PC, Chiang YC, Young ST, Chu WC. The Binaural Masking-Level Difference of Mandarin Tone Detection and the Binaural Intelligibility-Level Difference of Mandarin Tone Recognition in the Presence of Speech-Spectrum Noise. Plos one. 2015;10(4):e0120977.

Verhey JL, Yasin I. Effect of duration and gating of the signal on the binaural masking level difference for narrowband and broadband maskers. J Acoust Soc Am. 2017;142(3):EL258-63.

Moller A. Electrical potentials in the auditory nervous system. In: Hearing: Its Physiology and Pathophysiology. San Diego, CA: Academic Press. 2000.

Jerger J, Brown D, Smith S. Effect of peripheral hearing loss on the masking level difference. Arch Otolaryngol. 1978;110:290-6.

Olsen W, Noffslnger D, Carhart R. Masking level differences encountered in clinical populations. Audiology. 1976;15:287-301.

Stubblefield J, Goldstein D. A test-re-test reliability study on clinical measurement of masking level differences. Audiology. 1977;16:419-31.

Kelly-Ballweber D, Dobie R. Binaural interaction measured behaviorally and electro-physiologically in young and old adults. Audiology. 1984;23:181-94.

Mamo SK, Grose JH, Buss E. Speech-evoked ABR: Effects of age and simulated neural temporal jitter. Hear Res. 2016;333:201-9.

Ozmeral EJ, Eddins AC, Frisina DR, Eddins DA. Large cross-sectional study of presbycusis reveals rapid progressive decline in auditory temporal acuity. Neurobiol Aging. 2016;43:72-8.

Ozmeral EJ, Eddins DA, Eddins AC. Reduced temporal processing in older, normal-hearing listeners evident from electrophysiological responses to shifts in interaural time difference. J Neurophysiol. 2016;116(6):2720-9.

Presacco A, Simon JZ, Anderson S. Evidence of degraded representation of speech in noise, in the aging midbrain and cortex. J Neurophysiol. 2016;116(5):2346-55.

Jerger J, Brown D, Smith S. Effect of peripheral hearing loss on the masking level difference. Arch Otolaryngol. 1984;110:290-6.

Novak R, Anderson C. Differentiation of types of presbycusis using the masking-level difference. J Speech and Hearing Research 1982;25:504-8.

Pichora-Fuller M, Schneider B. Masking-level differences in the elderly: a comparison of antiphasic and time-delay dichotic conditions. J Speech Hear Res. 1991;34(6):1410-22.

Bourbon W, Jeffress L. Effect of bandwidth of masking noise on detection of homophasic and antiphasic tonal signals. J Acoust Soc Am. 1964;37:1180.

Hall J, Harvey A. NoSo and NoSπ thresholds as a function of masker level for narrow-band and wideband masking noise. J Acoust Soc Am. 1984;76:1699-703.

McFadden D. Masking-level differences with continuous and with burst masking noise. J Acoust Soc Am. 1966;40:1414-9.

Pichora-Fuller M, Schneider B. Masking-level differences in the elderly: the effect of the level of the masking noise. Perception Psychophysics 1998;60:1197-205.

Pichora-Fuller M, Schneider B. The effect of interaural delay of the masker on masking-level differences in young and old adults. J Acoust Soc Am. 1992;91:2129-35.

De Carvalho NG, Amaral MIRD, De Barros VZ, Santos MFCD. Masking Level Difference: Performance of School Children Aged 7-12 Years. J Audio Oto. 2021;25(2):65-71.

Eddins AC, Eddins DA. Cortical Correlates of Binaural Temporal Processing Deficits in Older Adults. Ear Hearing. 2018;39(3):594-604.

Egan J. Masking-level differences as a function of interaural disparities in intensity of signal and of noise. J Acoust Soc Am. 1965;38:1043-9.

Schoeny Z, Carhart R. Effects of unilateral Ménières disease on masking-level differences. J Acoust Soc Am. 1971;50:1143-50.

Jeffress L, Blodgett H, Deatherage B. The masking of tones by white noise as a function of interaural phases of both components. J Acoust Soc Am. 1952;24:523-7.

Jiang D, McAlpine D, Palmer A. Detectability Index Measures of Binaural Masking Level Difference Across Populations of Inferior Colliculus Neurons. J Neurosci. 1997;17(23):9331-9.

Strouse A, Ashmead D, Ohde R, Grantham D. Temporal processing in the aging auditory system. J Acoust Soc Am. 1998;104(4):2385-99.

Dubno J, Ahlstrom J, Horwitz A. Binaural Advantage for Younger and Older Adults with Normal Hearing. J Speech, Language Hearing Res. 200;51(2):539-56.

Kathleen M, Pichora-Fuller M, Schneider B. The effect of interaural delay of the masker on masking-level differences in young and old adults. J Acoust Soc Am. 1991;91(4):150-9.

Sever J, Small A. Binaural critical masking bands. J Acoust Soc Am. 1979;66:1343-50.

Bellis T. Assessment and management of central auditory processing disorders in the educational setting. In Science to Practice. Toronto, Canada: Thomson Delmar Learning. 2003; 2.

Breebaart J, Steven V, Kohlrausch A. Binaural signal detection with phase-shifted and time-delayed noise makers. J Acoust Soc Am. 1998;103:4.