The relative contributions of acoustic pressure and particle velocity to the low-frequency, underwater hearing abilities of the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and white whale (Delphinapterus leucas) were investigated by measuring(masked) hearing thresholds while manipulating the relationship between the pressure and velocity. This was accomplished by varying the distance within the near field of a single underwater sound projector (experiment I) and using two underwater sound projectors and an active soundcontrol system (experiment II). The results of experiment I showed no significant change in pressure thresholds as the distance between the subject and the sound source was changed. In contrast, velocity thresholds tended to increase and intensity thresholds tended to decrease as the source distance decreased. These data suggest that acoustic pressure is a better indicator of threshold, compared to particle velocity or mean active intensity, in the subjects tested. Interpretation of the results of experiment II (the active sound control system) was difficult because of complex acoustic conditions and the unknown effects of the subject on the generated acoustic field; however, these data also tend to support the results of experiment I and suggest that odontocete thresholds should be reported in units of acoustic pressure, rather than intensity.