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Beached dolphins are deaf

New research into the cause of dolphin “strandings” — incidents in which weakened or dead dolphins are found near shore — has shown that in some species, many stranded creatures share the same problem. They are nearly deaf, in a world where hearing can be as valuable as sight.

world Updated: Nov 16, 2010 00:22 IST

New research into the cause of dolphin “strandings” — incidents in which weakened or dead dolphins are found near shore — has shown that in some species, many stranded creatures share the same problem. They are nearly deaf, in a world where hearing can be as valuable as sight.

That understanding —gained from a study of dolphins’ brain activity — could help explain why such intelligent animals do something so seemingly dumb. Unable to use sound to find food or family, dolphins can wind up weak and disoriented.

Researchers are unsure what is causing the hearing loss: It might be old age, birth defects or a cacophony of man-made noise in the ocean, including Navy sonar.

The news, researchers say, is a warning for those who rescue and release injured dolphins: In some cases, the animals might be going back to a world they can’t hear.

Each year, from 1,200 to 1,600 whales and dolphins are found stranded off the US coast.

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