Subjective loudness level measurements and equal loudness contours in a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus).

Pay-walled Peer Reviewed Publication 2011

Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

Loudness level measurements in human listeners are straightforward; however, it is difficult to convey the concepts of loudness matching or loudness comparison to (non-human) animals. For this reason, prior studies have relied upon objective measurements, such as response latency, to estimate equal loudness contours in animals. In this study, a bottlenose dolphin was trained to perform a loudness comparison test, where the listener indicates which of two sequential tones is louder. To enable reward of the dolphin, most trials featured tones with identical or similar frequencies, but relatively large sound pressure level differences, so that the loudness relationship was known. A relatively small percentage of trials were “probe” trials, with tone pairs whose loudness relationship was not known. Responses to the probe trials were used to construct psychometric functions describing the loudness relationship between a tone at a particular frequency and sound pressure level and that of a reference tone at 10 kHz with a sound pressure level of 90, 105, or 115 dB re 1 μPa. The loudness relationships were then used to construct equal loudness contours and auditory weighting functions that can be used to predict the frequency-dependent effects of noise on odontocetes.

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