Variation in the hearing sensitivity of a dolphin population determined through the use of evoked potential audiometry

J Acoust Soc Am. 2006 Dec;120(6):4090-9. doi: 10.1121/1.2357993.


A portable electrophysiological data collection system was used to assess hearing in a captive population of bottlenose dolphins by recording auditory evoked potentials (AEPs). The AEP system used a transducer 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 hearing thresholds to be estimated from 10 to 150 kHz in a single ear in about 45 min. Hearing thresholds were measured in 42 bottlenose dolphins (28 male, 14 female), ranging in age from 4 to 47 years. Variations in hearing sensitivity with age and sex followed patterns seen in humans and terrestrial mammals: generally, within the population there was a progressive loss of high frequency hearing with age and an earlier onset of hearing loss in males than in females. Hearing loss generally occurred between the ages of 20 and 30, and all animals over the age of 27 had some degree of hearing loss. Two dolphins with profound hearing loss were found within the population. Aberrant hearing patterns were observed in related dolphins suggesting genetic links to hearing ability may exist.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Audiometry / instrumentation
  • Bottle-Nosed Dolphin
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology*
  • Hearing / physiology*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity