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J Acoust Soc Am. 1999 Aug;106(2):1134-41.

Killer whale (Orcinus orca) hearing: auditory brainstem response and behavioral audiograms.

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  • 1University of California Davis, Psychology Department 95616, USA.


Killer whale (Orcinus orca) audiograms were measured using behavioral responses and auditory evoked potentials (AEPs) from two trained adult females. The mean auditory brainstem response (ABR) audiogram to tones between 1 and 100 kHz was 12 dB (re 1 mu Pa) less sensitive than behavioral audiograms from the same individuals (+/- 8 dB). The ABR and behavioral audiogram curves had shapes that were generally consistent and had the best threshold agreement (5 dB) in the most sensitive range 18-42 kHz, and the least (22 dB) at higher frequencies 60-100 kHz. The most sensitive frequency in the mean Orcinus audiogram was 20 kHz (36 dB), a frequency lower than many other odontocetes, but one that matches peak spectral energy reported for wild killer whale echolocation clicks. A previously reported audiogram of a male Orcinus had greatest sensitivity in this range (15 kHz, approximately 35 dB). Both whales reliably responded to 100-kHz tones (95 dB), and one whale to a 120-kHz tone, a variation from an earlier reported high-frequency limit of 32 kHz for a male Orcinus. Despite smaller amplitude ABRs than smaller delphinids, the results demonstrated that ABR audiometry can provide a useful suprathreshold estimate of hearing range in toothed whales.

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