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Re: Definition of masking

Hello Al,

>How about this?
> "A sound is said to be masked when it is no longer audible due to the
>presence of one or more other sounds.  In everyday language, the sound is
>'drowned out' by the other sound(s)."

Yes, I'd go along with this. My point was that it doesn't seem
linguistically correct to use the word "masking" to mean the "amount",
i.e., the second definition advocated by the ASA. As I understand it, the
word "masking" is a gerund, a noun derived from a verb that retains some of
its verbal attributes. In this respect, using it to mean a process makes
more sense.

So I'd say:

"The masking is 20 dB" is incorrect, just as:

"The driving is 10 hours" is incorrect.

But it's OK to say:

"20 dB of masking" or:

"10 hours of driving"

It's just a point that came up in some recent essays I marked.

Incidentally, I notice in your definition that you seem to regard masking
as being a process of "swamping" rather than including things like
suppression or adaptation. I'm inclined to agree with you - the etymology
of the word suggests something related to "obscuring" or "drowning out",
rather than suppressing.

The problem then is that to call something "masking" we need to be sure of
the underlying process. For example, we shouldn't call the increase in
threshold for a tone following a masker "forward masking" unless we can be
sure that the process is one of swamping rather than, say, adaptation.

Bests, Chris

       Chris Plack - psychoacoustician, pop star
     Department of Psychology, University of Essex,
        Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ, UK.
               Tel: (01206) 873493
               Fax: (01206) 873590