A new study found that over half of stranded bottlenose dolphins and more than a third of stranded rough-toothed dolphins suffer from hearing loss. Whether hearing loss causes the stranding or is related in some other way is not yet known.
Dolphins use echolocation to orient themselves in their surroundings and to communicate with other members of their pod. Because of this, an inability to hear properly could contribute to a higher rate of stranding.
The main cause of hearing loss among dolphins is also unknown, but aging, shipping noises, and the presence of antibiotics all contribute to the problem. "We're at a stage right now where we're determining the extent of hearing loss [in dolphins], and figuring out all the potential causes," said Judy St. Leger, director of pathology and research at SeaWorld in San Diego. "The better we understand that, the better we have a sense of what we should be doing.”
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