Image shows an owl

The top 10 animals with the best hearing

Contributed by Dave Cutten

19/02/2024 00:00:00 • 4 min read

We use our hearing to communicate with those around us and interact with our environment. The average hearing range for a human is between 20 Hz–20 kHz and we use three muscles in the hearing process. Many animals, however, have much better hearing than ours.


A specific moth, the greater wax moth, has been named as having the best hearing in the animal kingdom. They can hear frequencies up to 300 kHz, 15 times higher than the highest pitched sounds we can hear. It’s believed this moth developed such sensitive hearing to escape its main predator: the bat. Bats use high-frequency echolocation to hunt, but the greater wax moths can hear bats’ calls, giving them a chance to evade their predators


Bats are known for their exceptional hearing, although the idea that they have poor eyesight has been widely debunked by scientists. Some species of bat use echolocation, meaning they squeak while in flight, and use the echo to and navigate. The sound vibrations they emit through squeaking bounces off any nearby surfaces back to the bat, allowing them to know where objects are. 


Being nocturnal, owls rely on both their sharp sight and their hearing. Most species of owls have asymmetrically place ears; one will be slightly further forward and one placed higher than the other. The difference in the placement of their ears allows them to pinpoint exactly where a sound is coming from and help them to capture their small prey in the dark.  


Elephants use their hearing and, most importantly, their ears, for many reasons. As well as having brilliant hearing, with an average range of 16 Hz–12 kHz, an elephant will use its ears to help them keep cool. In the hot climates where they live, the large surface area and thinness of their ears help regulate their body temperature, keeping them cooler for longer. 


When you come home and your dog is happy to see you, you might think it’s because they heard you come through the front door. But a dog’s hearing is highly sensitive and can hear frequencies above what a human can hear (and often respond better to these frequencies than lower tones). A dog’s hearing is so sensitive that they can usually hear you are home even before you open the door. 


Not only is a cat’s hearing highly impressive, with an average range of between 45Hz – 64,000Hz, but their ears are also mechanically remarkable. A human ear consists of three muscles and the three smallest bones in the body; a cat’s ears are controlled by around three dozen muscles per ear which allows them to rotate their ears 180 degrees. 


A herd of horses will always have at least one lookout, to warn others of potential dangers that may be around them. A horse’s hearing is essential to the protection of the herd. The main functions a horse’s hearing are to detect the sound, determine where it is coming from, to identify what the sound is and know whether it’s time to warn the herd or not. Horses also use their ears to communicate their mood. 


Dolphins have exceptional hearing as well as eyesight and also use echolocation to “hear” where they are going (similar to bats). A dolphin will emit a sound, a squeak in this case, that will bounce off the surfaces and back to the dolphin’s lower jaw. The bounce back of sound vibrations gives a sound map of what might be ahead. The detail of the sound map is impressive and allows a dolphin to not only hunt effectively, but also avoid any danger. 


Rats are particularly good at pinpointing the exact location of where a sound is coming from, due to their ears being so close together. A rat’s range falls in the ultrasound category, which are sounds that are too high for a human to hear. 


Pigeons can hear infrasound, sounds that are much lower than a human can hear. With the average pigeon being able to hear sounds as low as 0.5 Hz, they can detect distant storms, earthquakes and even volcanoes. With their exceptional hearing ability and their navigational skills, they are often considered to be the best navigators in the animal kingdom. 

Many animals have great hearing but if you’re concerned about yours in any way, search for your nearest hearing clinic or book a free hearing test.