The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (2016)

DOI: 10.1121/1.4948571


High intensity underwater sounds may cause temporary hearing threshold shifts (TTSs) in harbor porpoises, the magnitude of which may depend on the exposure duration. After exposure to playbacks of pile driving sounds, TTSs in two porpoises were quantified at 4 and 8 kHz with a psychophysical technique. At 8 kHz, the pile driving sounds caused the highest TTS. Pile driving sounds had the following: pulse duration 124 ms, rate 2760 strikes/h, inter-pulse interval 1.3 s, duty cycle ∼9.5%, average received single-strike unweighted broadband sound exposure level (SELss) 145 dB re 1 μPa2s, exposure duration range 15-360 min (cumulative SEL range: 173–187 dB re 1 μPa2s). Control sessions were also carried out. Mean TTS (1–4 min after sound exposure stopped in one porpoise, and 12–16 min in the other animal) increased from 0 dB after 15 min exposure to 5 dB after 360 min exposure. Recovery occurred within 60 min post-exposure. For the signal duration, sound pressure level (SPL), and duty cycle used, the TTS onset SELcum is estimated to be around 175 dB re 1 μPa2s. The small increase in TTS between 15 and 360 min exposures is due to the small amount of sound energy per unit of time to which the porpoises were exposed [average (over time) broadband SPL ∼144 dB re 1 μPa].