TIL: Cicadas Can Damage Your Hearing

Imagine you spent your entire childhood, teenage years, and young adulthood stuck inside a small closet. One day, after much of your life has passed you by, you realize that you can just open up the door, change into some more appropriate clothes, and hit the town! Free at last, what would you do first? Maybe sing a bit? Go on a few dates? By the way, you have two to four weeks to live. Yikes.

This is not unlike the situation most cicadas face, as they spend almost their entire lives underground. For example, many of the cicadas emerging in 2016 have been underground for 17 years! To put that in perspective, the last Star Wars movie these insects saw was literally a menace. Imagine waking up in a world without Smash Mouth and Sugar Ray! Come to think of it, things are really looking up since 1999.

A cicada’s ear-piercing call is intended to attract a gal pal. Considering that these little creatures’ time above ground is so fleeting, they need to lock down a date as soon as possible. This could be why most cicadas are louder than the average fraternity pledge. Adult males are the ones making such a racket, and some species can register sounds louder 100 decibels when calling for a potential mate. In this week’s Today I Learned, National Geographic Emerging Explorer and filmmaker Sandesh Kadur explains how cicadas sing such a loud song.