Barn owls—spectral-looking, white-faced birds that are commonly found roosting in trees, cavities, and abandoned barns—are known for their exceptional ability to stake out prey based on sound alone, often in complete darkness. And, unlike humans, barn owl’s hearing may not degrade with age.
Researchers at the University of Oldenburg trained seven owls ranging in age from 2 to 17, to fly in a specific direction in response to an auditory signal. Later, they grouped the owls by age and tested their hearing with differing sound frequencies; there was no reported difference in auditory ability. The researchers also tested a 23-year-old barn owl, and found its hearing to be the same as the other birds.
Based on the study, which was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the research team concluded that barn owls do not lose their hearing with age, similar to other birds who are able to regenerate hair cells in the basilar papilla. Further research is suggested to study how their regenerative abilities and how that may be applicable to treatments for human hearing loss.
Original Paper: Krumm B, Klump G, Köppl C, Langemann U. Barn owls have ageless ears. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. September 20, 2017: 284(1863). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.1584
Source: Proceedings of the Royal Society B