Researchers have found that barn owls have what they call “ageless ears,” which could potentially help with identifying new treatment options for hearing-impaired humans.
In a study published in Proceedings of Biological Science, researchers 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.
According to Georg Klump, one of the study authors “birds can repair their ears like humans can repair a wound”. “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.
Full reference: Krumm, B. et al. Barn owls have ageless ears Proc Biol Sci. 2017 Sep 27;284