Halloween is right around the corner, a time for creative costumes, trick-or-treating, and watching for witches flying across the sky. With the spooky season upon us, we thought it would be fun to review a few creatures with scary good hearing. While only a small selection of the many eerie creatures in the animal kingdom, bats, spiders, and black cats all have different ways of hearing and could provide additional insight into the science of hearing and how to improve hearing technologies.
Bats, an iconic symbol of Halloween, are fascinating in that they use echolocation to find prey. Echolocation is where the animal, in this case a bat, emits a very high-pitched sound beyond the range that humans are able to hear. The sound waves bounce off the prey, creating an echo that directs the bat to their meal. Less scary, bats also use echolocation to navigate. Then again, that’s only less scary so long as the bat flying overhead isn’t Dracula himself.
A recently published study focused on orb-weaving spiders found that webs are used to capture sounds, not just motion or vibrations from predators or food. The study found that the web of orb-weaving spiders captures vibrations from sound in the air. The study noted that the spider web in fact helped the sound wave carry farther than it would through the air alone, and many of the spiders physically responded to the vibration of sound. Spiders, a great friend in pest control but obviously creepy, could also provide a window into different ways of hearing that could lead to technological advancements for the treatment of hearing loss. For now, the lesson is if you ever get stuck in a giant spider web, don’t move, don’t scream, or it may find you…
Cats have fantastic hearing, particularly at higher pitches. Cats have ears that are shaped to capture sounds and even have additional muscles that allow them to twitch or move their ears toward the sound. So, if a black cat crosses your path, instead of running away take a moment to appreciate its ability to hear at greater distances and higher frequencies than humans.
As you head out to enjoy this Halloween, be sure to take steps to ensure your safety and ability to hear. If you attend a Halloween party, take breaks if it’s noisy or move away from the speakers if there is loud music. If you’re heading out trick-or-treating, make sure you have backup hearing aid batteries or ensure your device is fully charged. And if you wear hearing aids and your costume includes a mask, hat, or headpiece, be careful when you remove them so that you don’t lose your hearing devices. Learn more tips and tricks here.