Hearing specialist fishes investigated so far revealed excellent temporal resolution abilities, enabling them to accurately process temporal patterns of sounds. Because noise is a growing environmental problem, we investigated how it affects the temporal resolution ability of goldfish. Auditory evoked potentials (AEPs) in response to clicks and double clicks were recorded before exposing, immediately after exposing the fish to white noise of 158 dB re 1 μPa for 24 h, and after 3, 7 and 14 days of recovery. Immediately after noise exposure, hearing sensitivity to clicks was reduced on average by 21 dB and recovered within 1 week. Amplitudes of the AEPs decreased by about 71% while latencies increased by 0.63 ms. Both AEP characteristics returned to baseline values within 2 weeks. Analysis of the response to double clicks showed that the minimum click period resolvable by the auditory system increased significantly from 1.25 to 2.08 ms immediately after noise exposure. After a recovery period of 3 days, this minimum period returned to pre-exposure values. The present study revealed that noise exposure affects the detection of short transient signals and the temporal resolution ability. Because acoustic information is primarily encoded via temporal patterns of sounds in fishes, environmental noise could severely impair acoustic orientation and communication.
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