No living thing can stop advancing in age, and one of the drawbacks of aging is a dulling of the senses. Since owls are known for having the most amazing hearing in the animal kingdom, it would seem that a decline of this sense would be crippling. But recent research has indicated that members of one of the world’s most common owl species don’t appear to lose their hearing at all.
Barn Owls and Their Bird Advantage
All bird species need and have superior vision and hearing. Because they hunt in dim and changing types of light, owls, in particular, heavily rely on their keen hearing to detect prey. So it’s fortunate that cells in the inner ears of owls and other bird species can regenerate when damaged.
This is a trick that mammal species are unable to replicate. Elderly birds have been shown in studies to have suffered some hearing loss as part of the aging process. However, this loss is minimal, at least when compared to mammals.
Also, a new study noted that some bird species appear not to be affected by it at all. Recent research conducted at the University of Oldenburg in Germany indicates that aging has no effect on the hearing of barn owls.
Scientists carried out hearing tests on individuals of this species ranging from the very young to the rather elderly birds. These tests had the specimens respond to audible cues, and researchers consistently saw no change in their hearing levels across the spectrum.
What this Advantage Could Mean for Humans
Researchers are hoping that the information gleaned through this barn owls study could be used to help hearing impaired humans. Currently, an average individual can expect to lose a significant amount of hearing, around 30 decibels, between birth and old age.
Still, if scientists manage to approximate and replicate a barn owl’s hearing regeneration in humans, then a day may come when hearing aids are obsolete. So while people may never enjoy the “wisdom” of barn owls, they may get to experience their remarkable hearing instead.
Details on the study and its results are available in a paper in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Image Source: Wikimedia