Can A Bat’s Sound Be Harmful? – Forbes


Could a bat deafen another bat with its echolocation? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Stefan Pociask, Lived with and observed bats for years, on Quora:

Could a bat deafen another bat with its echolocation?

This question, as asked, isn’t really valid. “Echolocation” is, at its most basic, a two-step process. A squeak is sent… then the reflection of that squeak is heard and interpreted. Echolocation isn’t a sound. But a sound is used to perform echolocation. So, no… the process, by definition, isn’t something capable of deafening anything.

Also, “deafen” implies damage; making something incapable of hearing. So if you mean can a bat make a sound that will damage the hearing of another bat?… No. You may as well ask if a lion can roar in a way to deafen another lion, or if a hawk can screech loud enough to deafen another hawk. The answer to those is also no, of course; for many reasons, not the least of which is that any sound produced that would damage the hearing of another of the same species, would also damage the hearing of the one creating the noise. The signals being sent out during echolocation are merely vocalizations, after all; not some kind of super-sonic, electronic, noise producing machine (although Batman may have something like that on his utility belt).

If you meant to ask if one bat can cancel out the ability of another bat to use echolocation, thereby making the other bat temporarily deaf (but actually it would be more like temporarily blind), the answer is still, no. The squeaks that bats make, although they are super high frequency, also vary from bat to bat, and from squeak to squeak. Bats can hear each other’s squeaks, and recognize their voices. So the chance of one bat emitting a signal that exactly cancels out the signal from another bat, although theoretically possible, in that by sheer chance, one single signal sent out might have its reflection diminished… it would be but a blink of interference, as squeaks are constantly being sent out. So, I guess in the sense that a bat could experience something similar to the lights flickering, a split second of deafening might occur. And by “deafening”, in this case, I mean that it would interfere in another bat’s own ability to use its echolocation. But we have no practical way of confirming or testing this, so it remains in the realm of theory.

So I’ve tried to interpret all possible variations of this question, and in all cases, for all practical purposes, the answer remains “no”.

There is one exception. If it’s a teenager Bat Out of Hell, playing the Meat Loaf album too loud, his parents may tell him “If you don’t turn that down, you’re going to go deaf!” So… yeah, there’s that.

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