How do dogs hear?

April 13, 2012

How well do dogs hear? Very well actually. Much better than humans can! When you see a dog cocking its head, it may be trying to understand a situation or simply trying to be cute. The dog may be listening intensly to a sound four times farther than what human ears can hear. The sense of smell being the most important sense of a dog, did you know that the second is the sense of hearing? A dog’s hearing is far superior to human hearing. Can it be because our ears are plastered to our head while dog ears aside from being considerably bigger can be erect or floppy and are not unlike big receptacles that will capture and collect sounds? Dogs with erect ears are noted to hear better than breeds with hairy pendulous ears. This is because the sound waves are muffled by the floppy ear; still dogs hear a much higher and lower frequency than what we humans can. A dog has a hearing frequency of about 40 Hz to 60,000 Hz. The human hearing frequency is pegged at 20 Hz to 20,000Hz. However, dogs are known to be very sensitive to loud sounds. Loud noises that can be tolerated by humans would be extremely painful to dogs.

Wiggling the ears a bit is pretty amazing for humans. Not everybody can do this feat after all. However, a dog’s ear has 18 or more muscles that make tilting, rotating lowering and raising the ear easy. This ear mobility acts like a radar and helps the dog locate the exact location where a sound is coming from. Aside from the sensitive sense of smell this heightened ability to hear is what makes a dog excel in search and rescue operations. Each ear has the ability to capture sounds independently. Has it ever happened that while you are playing with your dog, it would stand still, turn the direction of one ear to the bushes and suddenly lunge after a prey? This excellent hearing ability means that the dog is flooded with sounds. Humans would find this pretty nerve wracking. However, our canine friend also has this ability to screen oncoming sounds. A dog has an impressive selective hearing talent. Notice how a dog will sleep through the blaring sound of the stereo, through the raucous created by kids playing “little Indians”, but would suddenly spring, be alert and anticipate the treat once it hears the crackling of the bag of kibble. Of course this can be attributed to the superior scenting ability of the dog, but a whispered command by the dog’s favorite person will be reacted by the dog in pretty much the same way.

The excellent hearing ability of our furry friends is established. Some breeds though are prone to congenital hearing disorders. Congenital deafness is most prevalent in white coated breeds like Jack Russell Terrier, Dalmatians, Bull terriers and Australian Cattle dogs. Puppies are deaf for the first 10 to 14 days of their lives. However after such time, a pup that is not responding to sound must be thoroughly examined. The vet may perform a BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) to determine the level of hearing loss. Ear care must be made a part of the dog’s grooming routine. A dog’s ear especially for breeds with pendulous ears is an excellent area for bacteria to grow. Signs of irritation will be noticed at once if the dog’s ears are regularly checked and cleaned. This will prevent painful ear infections. Ear infections that are left untreated can result to a foul odor and worst can cause the dog’s loss of hearing.

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