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How California Chrome’s Hearing Could Impact Triple Crown Bid

On June 7, Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome will compete at BelmontTriple Crown Connect Hearing Stakes for a chance to win the Triple Crown. A few horses have come close to accomplishing the feat in recent years, but the legendary Affirmed remains the last horse to have won the Triple Crown, sweeping the three races in 1978.

California Chrome appears to have the best opportunity of any Triple Crown candidate given his dominance of the three-year-old thoroughbred class. We thought with this monumental race approaching that it would be a good time to talk about similarities between horses and humans when it comes to hearing, and how hearing is a sense that will impact who reaches the finish line first at the Belmont Stakes.

The relationship between horse and jockey is critical to success. Victor Espinoza will be riding California Chrome and like all jockeys understands the importance of the bond with his animal. Part of that bond involves the jockey and horse functioning like one body. But as we sometimes tend to take our hearing for granted, sometimes people who work with horses make the same mistake.

According to TheHorse.com, a horse's acute sense of hearing allows him to detect danger, communicate with other horses, and respond to his handler's vocal cues. But because trainers rarely encounter problems with their horses' ears, they are often taken for granted.

Horses can, however, lose their hearing. "Like any other animal," said Rickye Heffner, Ph.D, professor of psychology at the University of Toledo and a specialist in mammal hearing in the interview with TheHorse.com.

He explained that horses can hear moderately loud sounds between 55 Hz and 33.5 kHz.

“Horses can have hearing loss due to age, some antibiotics, ear mites, and genetic disorders," said Heffner.

Another similarity we have with horses is an issue that has been discussed before at Connect Hearing, and that is the issue of loud sporting events. Just as loud noise can affect humans who enjoy loud sports in the stadium, arena or on television, it can impact the behaviour of horses in similar settings. Racehorses have been known to be spooked by loud crowd noises, although the contenders for the Belmont Derby are accustomed to raucous atmospheres and should have no issue come race day.

As reported on CBC, loud noise at pro sports games can cause long-term hearing loss in humans. More than one million adults across the country report having a hearing-related disability, according to Statistics Canada. In the U.S., it’s estimated one in five teens have some degree of hearing loss.

The CBC article pointed out that an official from Guinness World Records recorded the crowd noise at a NFL Seattle Seahawks game in the fall at 137.6 decibels – that's equivalent to the sound of a jet in flight.

“One of the things that got my attention about horses is that like many humans, horses tend to live with hearing problems rather than show obvious discomfort from the condition,” said Connect Hearing Director of Professional Practice M.J. DeSousa. She notes that Connect Hearing offers free hearing tests at all of its clinics because it wants Canadians to make hearing health a priority. “Our ears get battered at sporting events and at work without us even realizing it. The bad news is that a horse has to live with hearing loss, but you don't.”

On June 7, history will be made at the Belmont Stakes, and the relationship between horse and jockey will be a key factor for success. If Victor Espinoza and California Chrome are destined to share a moment in the winner’s circle, it will only be because the two worked together as one.

That's how it should be with you and your hearing. Give us a call and visit one of our clinics, get informed, and make your hearing health a priority. Let's win the race against hearing loss.

If you are interested in seeing California Chrome, check out this video of his win at the Kentucky Derby:

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