Comparison of in-air evoked potential and underwater behavioral hearing thresholds in four bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)

J Acoust Soc Am. 2006 May;119(5 Pt 1):3181-92. doi: 10.1121/1.2180208.


Traditional behavioral techniques for hearing assessment in marine mammals are limited by the time and access required to train subjects. Electrophysiological methods, where passive electrodes are used to measure auditory evoked potentials (AEPs), are attractive alternatives to behavioral techniques; however, there have been few attempts to compare AEP and behavioral results for the same subject. In this study, behavioral and AEP hearing thresholds were compared in four bottlenose dolphins. AEP thresholds were measured in-air using a piezoelectric sound projector embedded in a suction cup to deliver amplitude modulated tones to the dolphin through the lower jaw. Evoked potentials were recorded noninvasively using surface electrodes. Adaptive procedures allowed AEP hearing thresholds to be estimated from 10 to 150 kHz in a single ear in about 45 min. Behavioral thresholds were measured in a quiet pool and in San Diego Bay. AEP and behavioral threshold estimates agreed closely as to the upper cutoff frequency beyond which thresholds increased sharply. AEP thresholds were strongly correlated with pool behavioral thresholds across the range of hearing; differences between AEP and pool behavioral thresholds increased with threshold magnitude and ranged from 0 to + 18 dB.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / instrumentation
  • Air
  • Animals
  • Auditory Threshold / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Bottle-Nosed Dolphin / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology*
  • Functional Laterality
  • Male
  • Water


  • Water