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Near-threshold equal-loudness contours for harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) derived from reaction times during underwater audiometry: a preliminary study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle



Ronald A Kastelein, Paul Jacobus Wensveen, John M Terhune, Christ A F de Jong

School/Research organisations


Equal-loudness functions describe relationships between the frequencies of sounds and their perceived loudness. This pilot study investigated the possibility of deriving equal-loudness contours based on the assumption that sounds of equal perceived loudness elicit equal reaction times (RTs). During a psychoacoustic underwater hearing study, the responses of two young female harbor seals to tonal signals between 0.125 and 100 kHz were filmed. Frame-by-frame analysis was used to quantify RT (the time between the onset of the sound stimulus and the onset of movement of the seal away from the listening station). Near-threshold equal-latency contours, as surrogates for equal-loudness contours, were estimated from RT-level functions fitted to mean RT data. The closer the received sound pressure level was to the 50% detection hearing threshold, the more slowly the animals reacted to the signal (RT range: 188-982 ms). Equal-latency contours were calculated relative to the RTs shown by each seal at sound levels of 0, 10, and 20 dB above the detection threshold at 1 kHz. Fifty percent detection thresholds are obtained with well-trained subjects actively listening for faint familiar sounds. When calculating audibility ranges of sounds for harbor seals in nature, it may be appropriate to consider levels 20 dB above this threshold.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)488-95
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011

    Research areas

  • Acoustic Stimulation, Animals, Audiometry, Auditory Threshold, Female, Immersion, Loudness Perception, Phoca, Pilot Projects, Psychoacoustics, Reaction Time, Time Factors, Video Recording

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