Forward-masking growth functions for on-frequency (6-kHz) and off-frequency (3-kHz) sinusoidal maskers were measured in quiet and in a high-pass noise just above the 6-kHz probe frequency. The data show that estimates of response-growth rates obtained from those functions in quiet, which have been used to infer cochlear compression, are strongly dependent on the spread of probe excitation toward higher frequency regions. Therefore, an alternative procedure for measuring response-growth rates was proposed, one that employs a fixed low-level probe and avoids level-dependent spread of probe excitation. Fixed-probe-level temporal masking curves (TMCs) were obtained from normal-hearing listeners at a test frequency of 1 kHz, where the short 1-kHz probe was fixed in level at about 10 dB SL. The level of the preceding forward masker was adjusted to obtain masked threshold as a function of the time delay between masker and probe. The TMCs were obtained for an on-frequency masker (1 kHz) and for other maskers with frequencies both below and above the probe frequency. From these measurements, input/output response-growth curves were derived for individual ears. Response-growth slopes varied from >1.0 at low masker levels to <0.2 at mid masker levels. In three subjects, response growth increased again at high masker levels (>80 dB SPL). For the fixed-level probe, the TMC slopes changed very little in the presence of a high-pass noise masking upward spread of probe excitation. A greater effect on the TMCs was observed when a high-frequency cueing tone was used with the masking tone. In both cases, however, the net effects on the estimated rate of response growth were minimal.
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