Can my Snake Hear Me?
Can my snake hear me? A question that parents of our slithering friends often ask; below we will look at some of the science and hissssssssssssssstory regarding snakes and hearing!
Unlike humans, snakes do not have external ears, but they do in fact have tiny holes on the sides of their head. Within these tiny holes you will find an inner ear, though, their inner ear is not composed in the same manner as a human's. Lacking ear drums and a middle ear; the inner ear is filled with air and not fluid like in a human inner ear. In addition, snakes have a bone in their jaw known as the quadrate bone. This bone moves slightly in response to vibrations while they slither on the ground.
Before recent key findings, it was thought that snakes could only hear noises exclusively through vibrations in the surface they were on. In recent years, research has shown that the quadrate bone responds to air and ground vibrations alike; taking sound vibrations and transferring from the quadrate to the inner ear, this signals the brain to interoperate these vibrations as sound!
How is Noise Measured?
This leads us back to the question; can my snake hear me? To answer this question, we first must understand how we measure noise and putting these numbers in relation to things we know! The loudness, or quietness of a sound is measured in decibels (dB); while the pitch of a sound is measured in Hertz (Hz). Let’s take a TV as an example in explaining decibels and Hertz to gain a better understanding of the measurements. We will relate the measuring of decibels to the raising or lowering of the TV volume; the frequency (Hertz) of the sound coming from the tv does not change but the volume (decibels) will rise and fall in relation to the volume button. The pitch, or Hertz, would be the measurement of the actual frequency that the sound is producing, not its level of loudness (dB).
What Can Snakes Hear?
Through continued research, it has been determined that snakes can detect low frequency airborne and ground vibrations through their inner ear! The frequencies they’re thought to be able to detect fall within the 20 to 1,000 Hz range. To put that in relation, humans can detect sound between 20 to 20,000 Hz and dogs can detect 67-45,000 Hz! There are mixed opinions on where their peak sensitivity to these frequencies are, but they’re thought to detect sound best within the 80-300 Hz range. Being that the average human voice is roughly 90-250 Hz, snakes just might be able to hear when you talk to them!