Berlin: Scientists have discovered that barn owls do not lose their ability to hear as they get older, a finding that may pave the way for novel therapies to prevent age-related hearing loss in humans.
Humans and other mammals do not have the ability to regenerate sensitive cells inside the ear. As age-related damage accumulates over time, hearing degrades.
However, this is not the case with birds. Previous studies have shown that some birds experience little hearing loss in their old age.
Researchers from University of Oldenburg in Germany looked to see if that also applied to long-lived birds such as the barn owl.
Barn owls have exceptionally good hearing – about 10 times more sensitive than that of humans. They are able to use hearing alone to capture prey moving in total darkness.
They also live a long time – some in captivity have lived to be over 20 years of age.
Researchers trained seven owls – aged two to 17 years – to fly from one position to another to receive a treat in response to an auditory signal.
The birds were then separated into age groups and the researchers tested their hearing by altering the tones, ‘Phys.org’ reported.
Researchers report no difference in hearing abilities between all of the birds. The team also tested the hearing of another individual barn owl that had lived to be 23 years old, and found that its hearing was just as good as the younger owls.
“Barn owls do not experience hearing loss as they age. Studying them and other birds to learn how they regenerate damaged nerves in their ears may lead to treatments for humans,” researchers said.