The effects of intense white noise (158 dB re 1 microPa for 12 and 24 h) on the hearing abilities of two otophysine fish species--the nonvocal goldfish Carassius auramus and the vocalizing catfish Pimelodus pictus--were investigated in relation to noise exposure duration. Hearing sensitivity was determined utilizing the auditory brainstem response (ABR) recording technique. Measurements in the frequency range between 0.2 and 4.0 kHz were conducted prior and directly after noise exposure as well as after 3, 7, and 14 days of recovery. Both species showed a significant loss of sensitivity (up to 26 dB in C. auratus and 32 dB in P. pictus) immediately after noise exposure, with the greatest hearing loss in the range of their most sensitive frequencies. Hearing loss differed between both species, and was more pronounced in the catfish. Exposure duration had no influence on hearing loss. Hearing thresholds of C. auratus recovered within three days, whereas those of P. pictus only returned to their initial values within 14 days after exposure in all but one frequency. The results indicate that hearing specialists are affected differently by noise exposure and that acoustic communication might be restricted in noisy habitats.