Owls never lose hear­ing

Shepparton News - Country News - - COBRAM HORSE TRIALS -

If age­ing hu­mans had ears like those of barn owls they would never need hear­ing aids, sci­en­tists say.

The birds, whose sen­si­tiv­ity to sound helps them lo­cate prey, suf­fer no hear­ing loss as they get older.

Like other birds, but un­like mam­mals in­clud­ing hu­mans, they are able to re­gen­er­ate cells in their in­ner ears.

Aged birds ex­pe­ri­ence min­i­mal hear­ing loss but the new re­search shows that the barn owl suf­fers no mean­ing­ful loss at all.

In con­trast, a hu­man will have lost more than 30 deci­bels of sen­si­tiv­ity to high-sound fre­quen­cies by the age of 65.

Test­ing showed no sta­tis­ti­cal dif­fer­ence be­tween the hear­ing abil­ity of young and very el­derly cap­tive barn owls up to 23 years old.

The team, led by Ul­rike Lange­mann from the Univer­sity of Olden­burg in Ger­many, wrote in the jour­nal Pro­ceed­ings of the Royal So­ci­ety B: ‘‘Over­all, our data . . . in­di­cate that barn owl ears do not de­te­ri­o­rate with age.

‘‘The lack of hear­ing loss in our old barn owls is re­mark­able, given that the av­er­age life ex­pectancy of barn owls is rather low.’’

In the wild, the birds have an av­er­age life span of only three or four years.

Un­der­stand­ing the preser­va­tion of hear­ing in birds could lead to new treat­ment op­tions for deaf hu­mans, the sci­en­tists said.

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