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J Exp Biol. 2004 Jan;207(Pt 3):427-35.

Noise-induced stress response and hearing loss in goldfish (Carassius auratus).

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Department of Biology and Center for Comparative and Evolutionary Biology of Hearing, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA.


Fishes are often exposed to environmental sounds such as those associated with shipping, seismic experiments, sonar and/or aquaculture pump systems. While efforts have been made to document the effects of such anthropogenic (human-generated) sounds on marine mammals, the effects of excess noise on fishes are poorly understood. We examined the short- and long-term effects of increased ambient sound on the stress and hearing of goldfish (Carassius auratus; a hearing specialist). We reared fish under either quiet (110-125 dB re 1 microPa) or noisy (white noise, 160-170 dB re 1 microPa) conditions and examined animals after specific durations of noise exposure. We assessed noise-induced alterations in physiological stress by measuring plasma cortisol and glucose levels and in hearing capabilities by using auditory brainstem responses. Noise exposure did not produce long-term physiological stress responses in goldfish, but a transient spike in plasma cortisol did occur within 10 min of the noise onset. Goldfish had significant threshold shifts in hearing after only 10 min of noise exposure, and these shifts increased linearly up to approximately 28 dB after 24 h of noise exposure. Further noise exposure did not increase threshold shifts, suggesting an asymptote of maximal hearing loss within 24 h. After 21 days of noise exposure, it took goldfish 14 days to fully recover to control hearing levels. This study shows that hearing-specialist fishes may be susceptible to noise-induced stress and hearing loss.

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