Effects of dolphin hearing bandwidth on biosonar click emissions

Madelyn G Strahan, James J Finneran, Jason Mulsow, Dorian S Houser
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 2020, 148 (1): 243
Differences in odontocete biosonar emissions have been reported for animals with hearing loss compared to those with normal hearing. For example, some animals with high-frequency hearing loss have been observed to lower the dominant frequencies of biosonar signals to better match a reduced audible frequency range. However, these observations have been limited to only a few individuals and there has been no systematic effort to examine how animals with varying degrees of hearing loss might alter biosonar click properties. In the present study, relationships between age, biosonar click emissions, auditory evoked potentials (AEPs), and hearing bandwidth were studied in 16 bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) of various ages and hearing capabilities. Underwater hearing thresholds were estimated by measuring steady-state AEPs to sinusoidal amplitude modulated tones at frequencies from 23 to 152 kHz. Input-output functions were generated at each tested frequency and used to calculate frequency-specific thresholds and the upper-frequency limit of hearing for each subject. Click emissions were measured during a biosonar aspect change detection task using a physical target. Relationships between hearing capabilities and the acoustic parameters of biosonar signals are described here and compared to previous experiments with fewer subjects.

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