Middle-ear stiffness of the bottlenose dolphin tursiops truncatus

Abstract

Previous research on the cetacean auditory system has consisted mostly of behavioral studies on a limited number of species. Little quantitative physiologic data exists on cetacean hearing. The frequency range of hearing varies greatly across different mammalian species. Differences among species correlate with differences in the middle-ear transfer function. Middle-ear transfer functions depend on the mechanical stiffness of the middle ear and the cochlear input impedance. The purpose of this study was to measure the middle-ear stiffness for the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), a species specialized for underwater high-frequency hearing and echolocation. Middle-ear stiffness was measured with a force probe that applied a known displacement to the stapes and measured the restoring force. The average middle-ear stiffness in ten dolphin ears was 1.37 N/mum, which is considerably higher than that reported for most terrestrial mammals. The relationship between middle-ear stiffness and low-frequency hearing cutoff in Tursiops was shown to be comparable to that of terrestrial mammals

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