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J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2005 Mar;6(1):28-36.

Hearing in fishes under noise conditions.

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  • 1Institute of Zoology, University of Vienna, Athanstrasse 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria.


Our current knowledge on sound detection in fishes is mainly based on data acquired under quiet laboratory conditions. However, it is important to relate auditory thresholds to background noise in order to determine the signal-detecting abilities of animals in the natural environment. We investigated the influence of two noise levels within the naturally occurring range on the auditory sensitivity of two hearing specialists (otophysines) and a hearing generalist. Audiograms of the goldfish Carassius auratus, the lined Raphael catfish Platydoras costatus and the pumpkinseed sunfish Lepomis gibbosus (hearing generalist) were determined between 200 and 4000 Hz (100-800 Hz for L. gibbosus) under laboratory conditions and under continuous white noise by recording auditory evoked potentials (AEPs). Baseline thresholds showed greatest hearing sensitivity around 500 Hz in goldfish and catfish and at 100 Hz in the sunfish. Continuous white noise of 110 dB RMS elevated the thresholds by 15-20 dB in C. auratus and by 4-22 dB in P. costatus. White noise of 130 dB RMS elevated overall hearing thresholds significantly in the otophysines by 23-44 dB. In the goldfish, threshold did not shift at 4 kHz. In contrast, auditory thresholds in the sunfish declined only at the higher noise level by 7-11 dB. Our data show that the AEP recording technique is suitable for studying masking in fishes, and that the occurrence and degree of the threshold shift (masking) depend on the hearing sensitivity of fishes, the frequency, and noise levels tested. The results indicate that acoustic communication and orientation of fishes, in particular of hearing specialists, are limited by noise regimes in their environment.

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