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Abstract: To determine the frequency-dependent susceptibility of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) to noise-induced temporary hearing threshold shift (TTS), two subjects were exposed for 60 min to two fatiguing sounds: continuous one-sixth-octave noise bands (NBs) centered at 8 kHz (at sound exposure levels [SELs] of 166 to 190 dB re 1 µPa2s) and at 16 kHz (at SELs of 183 to 207 dB re 1 µPa2s). Using a psychoacoustic technique, TTSs were quantified at 8, 11.3, 16, 22.4, and 32 kHz (at the center frequency of each NB, half an octave higher, and one octave higher). For both NBs, higher SELs resulted in greater TTSs. In the SEL ranges that were tested, the largest TTSs occurred when the hearing test frequency was half an octave higher than the frequency of the fatiguing sound. When their hearing was tested at the same time after the fatiguing sounds stopped, initial TTSs and hearing recovery patterns were similar in both sea lions. The effect of fatiguing sound duty cycle on TTS was investigated with the 8 kHz NB, using 1,600 ms signals at a mean sound pressure level (SPL) of 154 dB re 1 µPa. Duty cycle reduction from 100 to 90% resulted in a large decrease in TTS; no TTS was observed at duty cycles ≤ 30%. The equal-energy hypothesis was tested with the 8 kHz NB and found to hold true: five combinations of SPL and exposure duration all resulting in a 182 dB SEL produced similar initial TTSs in both sea lions. These findings will contribute to the protection of otariid hearing from anthropogenic noise by facilitating the development of evidence-based underwater sound weighting functions. Our results also show that the introduction of short inter-pulse intervals to underwater sounds aids in the protection of otariid hearing by allowing recovery to take place.
Key Words: anthropogenic noise, audiogram, auditory weighting, hearing damage, hearing recovery, criteria, hearing sensitivity, Otariidae, TTS
Page Numbers: 36-58
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