It’s reassuring to learn that other mammals seem to lose their hearing in older age, much like humans do, but also find ways to adapt to their situation.
Scientists have discovered that some bats experience age-related hearing loss – but may have found a way around it.
A study of wild Egyptian fruit bats revealed a clear age-related hearing loss that, just as in humans, was particularly pronounced at higher sound frequencies – exactly those pitches that the bats need for echolocation to orientate themselves in their environment and to seek out prey.
The fruit bats live in large, noisy colonies which means these animals are continuously exposed to over 100 dB of noise (equivalent to a motorbike or chainsaw). But the loudest sounds they experience are at lower frequencies – where the older bats show little to no hearing loss.
This indicates that they’ve found some way to adapt to cope with their noisy environment and to continue being able to hunt and orientate themselves despite hearing loss at a crucial hearing range.
There’s plenty more to study in this area, but it’s tempting to think that the bats may have some answers we’ve yet to discover.