Watch the secret to why barn owls don’t lose their hearing

Be jealous of barn owls: Even in old age, they don’t lose their hearing, according to a new study. In the first hearing test of its kind, researchers trained the birds (Tyto alba) to sit on a perch and fly to a second perch only after hearing a sound cue. Then, they analyzed how young and old barn owls responded to sounds at different intensities, ranging from levels that would be completely inaudible to humans to sounds corresponding to soft whispers. Older owls showed little or no hearing loss compared with their younger brethren, the team reports today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. This is because, unlike mammals, birds can regenerate lost hair cells in the innermost part of the ear that is responsible for detecting sounds, the scientists say. Understanding how birds retain good hearing, they add, may lead to new treatments for humans.