December 17, 2008. A research project supported by the BBVA Foundation and led by Michel Andr, director of the Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics at the UPC (Universitat Politcnica de Catalunya) has developed the world's first portable system for measuring cetacean hearing sensitivity.
This audiogram measurement system facilitates in situ diagnosis of cetacean hearing loss, allowing assessments to be run on the survival chances of stranded animals without having to transport them to a laboratory. Researchers in Spain, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands and the United States have taken part in this BBVA Foundation project.
Cetaceans rank among the world's most imperiled species, due, among other reasons, to the noise produced by artificial sound sources. A number of problems have recently come to light which bear a direct relation to sound sources of human origin; among them, the growing number of cetacean deaths in collisions with boats, or the mass beaching of whales after military maneuvers. Oil and gas extraction too have added their share of noise pollution to the marine environment.
To date, the only way to measure cetaceans' hearing sensitivity was to remove them to a laboratory. However this complex process entailed serious risks for their survival, given their large size and the delicate state of health of stranded individuals.
Among the innovative features of the new portable system developed by Michel Andr's team with the aid of the BBVA Foundation are its electrical autonomy, measurement speed just a few minutes suffice to detect any auditory lesions and its ability to generate stimuli from 10 Hz up to 200 kHz, encompassing the entire human hearing range (20 Hz- 20 kHz) and, naturally, that of cetaceans.
This novel system can ascertain how the animals' brains react to sound signals, as well as measuring cetaceans' hearing sensitivity to certain frequencies by analyzing the evoked potentials registe
|Contact: Javier Fernandez|