10 Animals With The Best Hearing

Written by Hannah Ward
Published: October 6, 2021


From the roar of a lion to the howl of a wolf, the sound of wild and wonderful animals is a thrilling experience.  Sound is essential to the communication of many animals, and hearing plays a vital role too.  As well as communication, hearing is used for hunting and even for navigation and many animals rely on it to survive.  Here we’ll discover 10 animals tjat have the best hearing in the world.

Bat

Are Bats Mammals
Bata have the best hearing of all land mammals

Bats are known for having the best hearing of all land mammals.  Their front limbs have adapted into wings and they are known for their excellent flying ability.  Bats use their hearing and a process called echolocation to detect prey and objects when flying.  They emit extremely high-pitched squeaks when flying – known as ultrasound.  When the sound hits an object (tree, building, prey) it is bounced back to them almost like an echo which allows the bat to detect exactly where that object is.  This allows them to rely on their hearing rather than their sight to find prey such as beetles, moths, and mosquitoes.  Although the exact range varies between species, bats can can detect sounds between 1 and 200 kHz.

Moth

Polyphemus moth on ground
Moths have incredible hearing

Surprisingly, moths have exceptional hearing and can even detect bats from 100 feet away before the bat even senses them.  There are around 160,000 species of moths in the world, but none have better hearing than the Greater Wax moth.  Greater wax moths can detect sound at frequencies of up to 300 kHz which is higher than any other animal in the world.  Moths ears are connected to nerve cells which allow them to detect even the slightest movement or sound.  As soon as they hear a predator they change the direction they’re flying in and begin flying in an evasive pattern.  Some even close their wings and drop to the floor until the danger has passed.

Owl

Are Owls Mammals
Owls rely on their hearing as well as their vision when hunting

There are around 225 species of owl in the world and they are best known for their incredible eyesight.  However, these magnificent birds of prey also have excellent hearing which aids their nightly hunting activity.  In most species of owl, the left ear is slightly lower than the right ear.  This helps them to better determine which direction a sound is coming from when it reaches their ears.  Owls have been proved to have particularly good hearing at frequencies greater than 5 kHz.  Great grey owls regularly rely on hearing alone to hunt as they detect small rodents moving around underneath the snow and still strike with deadly accuracy.

Dolphin

Animals that build things like humans –Dolphin
Dolphins use echolocation to detect prey

Like bats, dolphins use echolocation to detect prey and objects.  However, these incredible aquatic mammals use echolocation underwater rather than in the air.  Their hearing is seven times better than humans and they can hear sounds between 20 and 150 kHz.  Dolphins mainly produce two types of sounds – clicking and high-pitched whistles and squeaks.  Their clicks produce sound waves that bounce off objects and prey so that they can determine the exact size and location of them (echolocation).  Although dolphins have small ear openings near their eyes they use their forehead and teeth to detect sound.  Amazingly, their teeth actually act like an antenna and they can feel sound vibrations through their jaw which are then sent to their middle ear.

Dog

Moscow watchdog playing in the river.
Dogs can detect sound we can’t

Dogs have long been known as man’s best friend and are loyal companions as well as working animals.  They have much better hearing than us and can hear almost twice as many frequencies as we can.  Dogs can also hear sounds from much further away than we can – four times in fact.  Dogs can hear many sounds than we can’t, which is why a lot of dog whistles even appear to be silent to us but the dog can still hear it, even if it’s a great distance away.  Often people assume that dogs have a sixth sense for things, such as knowing when their owner is home.  However, they’ve actually recognized the sound of the car and can pinpoint exactly where it is.  Dogs ears are controlled by 18 muscles and they can tilt and rotate them to help them determine exactly where a noise is coming from.

Cat

cat laying on floor
Cats can hear sounds up to 64 kHz

If you think that dogs have good good hearing, then a cats is even better.  Cats ears are controlled by 30 muscles and they can hear high-pitched sounds up to 64 kHz.  They can even rotate their ears up to 180 degrees.  Cats use their excellent hearing to help them to hunt prey such as mice and birds.  This is so that they can tell where their prey is while they are waiting for exactly the right moment to pounce.  Cats are especially clever as they possess the ability to filter out background noises. This is so that they don’t get overwhelmed and can focus only on those that matter.

Horse

How long do horses live: Shire
Horses can hear sounds 2.5 miles away

Horses have the ability to hear sounds from as far as 2.5 miles away.  They can detect sounds up to 25 kHz and can rotate their ears 180 degrees.  This allows them to determine the exact direction that the sound is coming from.  Hearing is essential to horses as they are flight animals.  They use their ears to assess whether the sound is a threat so they can decide if they need to flee from it.  This is particularly essential to horses in the wild who might face threats from predators such as mountain lions, wolves, and bears.  Horses also use a range of sounds to communicate and the ability to hear other horses and respond is vital to them.

Wolf

Animals That Can See Infrared wolf
Wolves can detect prey miles away

Hearing, along with the sense of smell is vital to wolves who rely on it when hunting.  Wolves can hear sounds as far away as 10 miles in the open and 6 miles in forest regions and up to a maximum frequency of 80 kHz.  Their ears are able to rotate independently which allows them to determine the exact direction that a sound is coming from.  Wolves acute hearing helps them to detect even the smallest sound made by potential prey.  However, it’s not just when hunting that wolves rely on their hearing.  There is no sound more haunting than the sound of a wolf howling. Wolves communicate through a range of howls, whimpers, barks, and growls.  They use these sounds to warn of danger, or to warn another pack to stay away, and their ability to hear these sounds are essential to their survival.

Elephant

elephants using tusks to defend
Elephants can detect sound with their feet

Elephants have excellent hearing and their large ears are used to funnel sound waves which makes their hearing especially good.  They often communicate with a number of low-frequency rumblings and sounds that aren’t audible to the human ear.  On average, they can hear the call of another elephant from as far away as 2.5 miles, and under good conditions from much further.  Elephants are even thought to spread their sound waves through the ground as vibrations as well as through the air.  They have a number of receptor cells in their toes which allow them to detect these vibrations through their feet.  This incredible feature is thought to be why a lot of elephants change their behavior and act strange before an earthquake as they have detected the vibrations from the seismic activity.

Pigeon

Smartest Animals – Pigeons
Pigeons are one of the best navigators in the world

Pigeons have the best hearing in the animal kingdom thanks to a unique adaptation that allows them to hear in “infrasounds.”

Pigeons are one of the best navigators in the animal world. They have even been used to carry messages during wars, such was the level of trust placed in them.  They have excellent hearing and can detect sounds at far lower ranges than us humans can – even detecting distant storms and volcanoes.  These incredible birds were initially thought to use only the position of the sun and the earth’s magnetic field to find their way. However, researchers now believe that they also use “infrasounds” (low-frequency sounds) to find their way back home.  They can also reach incredible speeds as well. reaching 77.6 mph for short bursts.