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Friday, September 22, 2017

Owls May Shed Light on Age-Related Hearing Loss Prevention

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Researchers in Europe found that barn owls have what they call "ageless ears," which could potentially help with identifying new treatment options for hearing-impaired humans (Proc Biol Sci 2017;284[1863] pii: 20171584). They measured the auditory sensitivity of seven barn owls ranging from less than 2 years old to 23 years old by training them to fly to a perch to receive a food reward in response to an auditory cue. Young and old owls both responded to the varying levels of auditory cues, and the oldest owl at 23 years old heard just as well as the younger owls. ​Georg Klump, a professor at the University of Oldenburg, Germany and one of the study authors, told BBC that owls keep their hearing into very old age. "Birds can repair their ears like (humans) can repair a wound," he said. "Humans cannot re-grow the sensory cells of the ears but birds can do this." Work is underway to investigate the differences between birds and mammals, which commonly lose their hearing at old age. ​

​Photo credit: ​Lubos Houska