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Current Events in Hearing Loss: Orangutans, Bats, and Cats, Oh My!

This week in Audicus blogs, find out about the latest news when it comes to topics including hearing health and hearing culture.

Current updates regarding hearing aids and hearing loss include:

Orangutans and Their Natural Hearing Amplifiers

One study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology found that orangutans will use their hands to adjust the sound of their voices, deterring predators in the process. This hand-cupping behavior is not a natural instinct but can be learned by watching other orangutans, and the primates will also use these modified noises to warn each other of an incoming predator.

This hand-cupping method may also be an orangutan’s way of making itself sound bigger, thereby discouraging predators.

Orangutans are the only other primates aside from humans that alter the way their voices project by using their hands. A similar study found that Costa Rican bats actually use leaves as a kind of hearing aid to keep an ear out for their roost mates!

Hearing in the Womb

A mother’s voice can have an impact on a child, even before he or she leaves the womb! One recent study found that fetuses can hear the voice and heartbeat of their mothers, and that these sounds can actually stimulate parts of the brain responsible for processing sounds.

Babies can also remember sounds that they have heard in the womb, recalling them days after they have been born! Fetuses that were recited a fake word before they were born displayed a certain brain activity pattern after they were presented with the fake word as newborns. This pattern is characteristic of what happens when people recall a memory.

Cats and Sign Language

Kim Silva, a retired teacher from the American School of the Deaf, has successfully taught her cats how to understand sign language. After having taught her daughters sign language, Kim Silva decided to try it out on her pets, including a deaf cat named Bambi.

Silva’s cats may not have the sign capabilities of people, but they still possess an impressive vocabulary, knowing words like “finish,” “dance” and “sleep.” Dogs are also capable of understanding sign language and may function as hearing ear dogs, assisting people who have a hearing loss condition by alerting them to doorbell rings or smoke alarms.

Hollywood and Age

Hollywood is well known for its obsession with youth, beauty and money. However, recent events have shown noticeable changes in the profiles of actors circulating throughout its media outlets.

The 57th annual Grammy awards included performers such as Annie Lenox, a member of a British 1980’s synth-pop band called the Eurythmics. There was also a mixture of young artists teaming up with older, more experienced professionals, like Lady Gaga performing with Tony Bennett and Tom Jones performing with Jessie J.

In cinematic news, a film called “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” will be released shortly. This movie, along with “Keep on Keepin’ On” display the perspectives of older adults while depicting interactions between older and younger generations.

These new developments in performance art are a promising sign for underrepresented people of different demographics and lifestyles. This includes actors that wear hearing aids in real life and on the stage.

By: Aaron Rodriques

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