Reliably detecting unexpected sounds is important for environmental awareness and survival. By selectively reducing responses to frequently, but not rarely, occurring sounds, auditory cortical neurons are thought to enhance the brain's ability to detect unexpected events through stimulus-specific adaptation (SSA). The majority of neurons in the primary auditory cortex exhibit SSA, yet little is known about the underlying cortical circuits. We found that two types of cortical interneurons differentially amplify SSA in putative excitatory neurons. Parvalbumin-positive interneurons (PVs) amplify SSA by providing non-specific inhibition: optogenetic suppression of PVs led to an equal increase in responses to frequent and rare tones. In contrast, somatostatin-positive interneurons (SOMs) selectively reduce excitatory responses to frequent tones: suppression of SOMs led to an increase in responses to frequent, but not to rare tones. A mutually coupled excitatory-inhibitory network model accounts for distinct mechanisms by which cortical inhibitory neurons enhance the brain's sensitivity to unexpected sounds.