Whales, dolphins, and porpoises (cetaceans) are adapted to produce and perceive sounds that collectively span 4–6 orders of magnitude along space, time, and frequency dimensions. Two important concepts, acoustic ecology and acoustic habitat, emerge from this perspective: where acoustic ecology is the study of acoustics involved in interactions of living organisms, and acoustic habitat as ecological space acoustically utilized by particular species. Cetaceans are dependent on access to their normal acoustic habitats for basic life functions. Communication masking from anthropogenic sounds that are chronically present can result in measurable losses of cetacean acoustic habitats, especially for low-frequency specialists, baleen whales. A communication masking model, informed by multi-year datasets, demonstrates cumulative influences of multiple vessels on fin, humpback and right whale acoustic habitats at spatial, temporal, and spectral scales matched to ecologically meaningful habitats. Results quantify acoustic habitat spatio-temporal variability over ecologically meaningful scales. In some habitats with high vessel traffic and vessel noise, predicted habitat loss and area over which animals can communicate is dramatically reduced compared to what it would be under non-vessel conditions. From a large-scale, ecological perspective, these acoustic habitat reductions likely represent significant costs for species for which acoustic communication is biologically critical.