DOI: 10.1121/10.0020728 ISSN:

Temporary threshold shift in bottlenose dolphins exposed to steady-state, 1/6-octave noise centered at 0.5 to 80 kHz

James J. Finneran, Carolyn E. Schlundt, Jason Mulsow
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

Temporary threshold shift (TTS) was measured in bottlenose dolphins after 1-h exposures to 1/6-octave noise centered at 0.5, 2, 8, 20, 40, and 80 kHz. Tests were conducted in netted ocean enclosures, with the dolphins free-swimming during noise exposures. Exposure levels were estimated using a combination of video-based measurement of dolphin position, calibrated exposure sound fields, and animal-borne archival recording tags. Hearing thresholds were measured before and after exposures using behavioral methods (0.5, 2, 8 kHz) or behavioral and electrophysiological [auditory brainstem response (ABR)] methods (20, 40, 80 kHz). No substantial effects of the noise were seen at 40 and 80 kHz at the highest exposure levels. At 2, 8, and 20 kHz, exposure levels required for 6 dB of TTS (onset TTS exposures) were similar to previous studies; however, at 0.5 kHz, onset TTS was much lower than predicted values. No clear relationships could be identified between ABR- and behaviorally measured TTS. The results raise questions about the validity of current noise exposure guidelines for dolphins at frequencies below ∼1 kHz and how to accurately estimate received noise levels from free-swimming animals.

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