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Keywords:

  • audiogram;
  • primates;
  • mammals;
  • audition

Abstract

This review discusses hearing performance in primates and selective pressures that may influence it. The hearing sensitivity and sound-localization abilities of primates, as indicated by behavioral tests, are reviewed and compared to hearing and sound localization among mammals in general. Primates fit the mammalian pattern with small species hearing higher frequencies than larger species in order to use spectral/intensity cues for sound localization. In this broader comparative context, the restricted high-frequency hearing of humans is not unusual. All of the primates tested so far are able to hear frequencies below 125 Hz, placing them among the majority of mammals. Sound-localization acuity has been determined for only three primates, and here also they have relatively good localization acuity (with a minimum audible angle roughly similar to other mammals such as cats, pigs, and opossums). This is in keeping with the pattern among mammals in general, in which species with narrow fields of best vision, such as a fovea, are better localizers than those with broad fields of best vision. Multiple lines of evidence support the view that sound localization is the selective pressure on smaller primates and on other mammals with short interaural distances for hearing high frequencies. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.