How Human Hearing Stacks Up in the Animal Kingdom

As humans, we typically think we’re at the top of the charts when compared to other members of the animal kingdom, but when it comes to our ability to hear, there are plenty of animals that have us beat. Just take a look at the hearing of some members of the animal kingdom!

Several marine animals rank at the top of the hearing charts, including:

  • Porpoise—This marine animal has the largest hearing range of any mammal on the planet! The porpoise ear has specific adaptations to the marine environment. Instead of sound passing through the outer ear to the middle ear, porpoises receive sound through the throat, from which it passes through a low-impedance fat-filled cavity to the inner ear. The porpoise ear is acoustically isolated from the skull by air-filled sinus pockets, which allow for greater directional hearing underwater.
  • Dolphin—These incredibly intelligent animals use their lower jawbones to assist with hearing, as well as echolocation, similar to bats.
  • Beluga Whale—The beluga whale’s lower jaw also conducts sound waves to the middle ear.
  • Sharks—Sharks can hear for miles thanks to an “inner ear” dual-purpose system called the acoustic-lateralis system. This system helps them find their prey, even in murky waters.

Other animals:

  • Bats—Bats are known for their poor eyesight, but make up for it with their excellent hearing and “echolocation.” Echolocation is a process of emitting ultrasonic squeaks while in flight, then measuring the time it takes the sound vibration to hit a nearby surface and bounce back. This allows the bat to understand the lay of the land and the location of its next meal.
  • Mouse—Though mice have great hearing, it’s in the upper frequencies. They have problems hearing lower sounds that most animals can hear.
  • Cats and dogs—Both cats and dogs have great hearing.  That’s how your cat is able to hunt for mice, and your dog knows when there’s an intruder at the door! For cats, hearing high frequencies, like mice trying to hide in the bushes, is the priority. Dogs have more sensitive ears than humans, but aren’t quite as sensitive to high frequencies as cats. Instead, they have the ability to locate and focus on sounds due to highly developed muscles around their ears. That’s why you’ll see their ears perk up and rotate when danger is near.
  • Humans and chimps—Humans share some DNA with chimps, including the ability to hear. Both are about the same, with the highest frequency audible to humans generally having a hearing range of between 20 and 20,000 hz. Though this is impressive, elephants can hear waves as low as 14 hz, while cats can hear up to 64,000 hz frequencies, and bats can sometimes pick up noises as high as 200,000 hz.
  • Elephants—Elephants don’t just have big ears, they can hear well with them, too. In fact, they can hear sounds 20 times lower than human ears can detect, from the distant rumble of thunder to the low-frequency noises constantly emitted by other elephants. Elephants also use their ears to keep cool with the large surface area and thinness of the ear helping to regulate body temperature.
  • Pigeons—These birds are not only incredibly intelligent, but their hearing is pretty good. The average pigeon is able to hear infrasounds as low as 0.5 Hz. This allows them to detect distant storms, earthquakes and even volcanoes. Infrasounds (very low frequency) also provide pigeons with an entire range of navigational tools similar to having an inborn radar.
  • Frogs, turtles and goldfish—All of these creatures can hear, but not well. Turtles in particular don’t have outer ears, so all they hear are vibrations and low-frequency sounds.

While it’s interesting to see where humans rank in the animal kingdom for their hearing abilities, what’s even more important is how well we can communicate with one another, and good hearing plays a vital role in that.

If you have problems hearing, are noticing you’re asking “What?” a lot, or are turning the TV volume up to the highest level, you might need your hearing checked.

A doctoral-level audiologist not only can check your hearing, but can recommend a hearing solution that meets your needs, lifestyle and budget.

Schedule an appointment.