Underwater hearing sensitivity of harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) for narrow noise bands between 0.2 and 80 kHz

Ronald A. Kastelein, Paul Wensveen, Lean Hoek, John M. Terhune

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


The underwater hearing sensitivities of two 1.5-year-old female harbor seals were quantified in a quiet pool built specifically for acoustic research, by using a behavioral psychoacoustic technique. The animals were trained to respond when they detected an acoustic signal and not to respond when they did not ("go/no-go" response). Fourteen narrowband noise signals (1/3-octave bands but with some energy in adjacent bands), at 1/3-octave center frequencies of 0.2-80 kHz, and of 900 ms duration, were tested. Thresholds at each frequency were measured using the up-down staircase method and defined as the stimulus level resulting in a 50% detection rate. Between 0.5 and 40 kHz, the thresholds corresponded to a 1/3-octave band noise level of ∼60 dB re 1 μPa (SD±3.0 dB). At lower frequencies, the thresholds increased to 66 dB re 1 μPa and at 80 kHz the thresholds rose to 114 dB re 1 μPa. The 1/3-octave noise band thresholds of the two seals did not differ from each other, or from the narrowband frequency-modulated tone thresholds at the same frequencies obtained a few months before for the same animals. These hearing threshold values can be used to calculate detection ranges of underwater calls and anthropogenic noises by harbor seals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)476-483
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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