Binaural Glimpses at the Cocktail Party?

  • Andrea Lingner
  • Benedikt Grothe
  • Lutz Wiegrebe
  • Stephan D. EwertEmail author
Research Article


Humans often have to focus on a single target sound while ignoring competing maskers in everyday situations. In such conditions, speech intelligibility (SI) is improved when a target speaker is spatially separated from a masker (spatial release from making, SRM) compared to situations where both are co-located. Such asymmetric spatial configurations lead to a ‘better-ear effect’ with improved signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) at one ear. However, maskers often surround the listener leading to more symmetric configurations where better-ear effects are absent in a long-term, wideband sense. Nevertheless, better-ear glimpses distributed across time and frequency persist and were suggested to account for SRM (Brungart and Iyer 2012). Here, speech reception was assessed using symmetric masker configurations while varying the spatio-temporal distribution of potential better-ear glimpses. Listeners were presented with a frontal target and eight single-talker maskers in four different symmetrical spatial configurations. Compared to the reference condition with co-located target and maskers, an SRM of up to 6 dB was observed. The SRM persisted when the frequency range of the maskers above or below 1500 Hz was replaced with stationary speech-shaped noise. Comparison to a recent short-time binaural SI model showed that better-ear glimpses can account for half the observed SRM, while binaural interaction utilizing phase differences is required to explain the other half.


better-ear listening glimpsing release from masking speech intelligibility model speech reception thresholds 



This work was supported by the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, the German Center for Vertigo and Balance Disorders (IFB) and the DFG SFB TRR 31. We thank Lisa Benda and Annika Sander for their support during data acquisition.


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Copyright information

© Association for Research in Otolaryngology 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Neurobiology, Department Biology IILudwig-Maximilians-Universität MunichMartinsried-PlaneggGermany
  2. 2.Medizinische Physik and Cluster of Excellence Hearing4AllUniversität OldenburgOldenburgGermany

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