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Hearing thresholds of a harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) for sweeps (1-2 kHz and 6-7 kHz bands) mimicking naval sonar signals

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Author: Kastelein, R.A. · Hoek, L. · Jong, C.A.F. de
Source:Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 5, 129, 3393-3399
Identifier: 430685
Keywords: Physics & Electronics · AS - Acoustics & Sonar · TS - Technical Sciences


The distance at which active naval sonar signals can be heard by harbor porpoises depends, among other factors, on the hearing thresholds of the species for those signals. Therefore the hearing sensitivity of a harbor porpoise was determined for 1 s up-sweep and down-sweep signals, mimicking mid-frequency and low-frequency active sonar sweeps (MFAS, 6-7 kHz band; LFAS, 1-2 kHz band). The 1-2 kHz sweeps were also tested with harmonics, as sonars sometimes produce these as byproducts of the fundamental signal. The hearing thresholds for up-sweeps and down-sweeps within each sweep pair were similar. The 50% detection threshold sound pressure levels (broadband, averaged over the signal duration) of the 1-2 kHz and 6-7 kHz sweeps were 75 and 67 dB re 1 µPa2, respectively. Harmonic deformation of the 1-2 kHz sweeps reduced the threshold to 59 dB re 1 µPa2. This study shows that the presence of harmonics in sonar signals can increase the detectability of a signal by harbor porpoises, and that tonal audiograms may not accurately predict the audibility of sweeps. LFAS systems, when designed to produce signals without harmonics, can operate at higher source levels than MFAS systems, at similar audibility distances for porpoises. © 2011 Acoustical Society of America.