The world would be a very different place without our sense of hearing. Like us, our dogs and cats rely on their sense of hearing to navigate their environment, find food, and stay safe. Taking good care of the ears is important, as is understanding what role they play for our furry companions.

Read on as Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates explains everything you need to know about pet hearing.

Pet Hearing Basics

While the ear of a hound may look drastically different from that of a cat, a person, or even a German Shepherd, the basic functions of the ear remain the same from species to species.

There are a few basic parts of the ear that every mammal possesses. These include:

  • The pinna (outer ear flap)
  • The external ear canal (opening between the pinna and ear drum)
  • The tympanic membrane (the eardrum)
  • The middle ear
  • The inner ear (inside the skull)

The pinna helps to channel soundwaves down into the ear canal, where they are directed to the tympanic membrane. The vibrations produced on this thin membrane move through the tiny bones in the middle ear, causing the fluid and hairs in the inner ear to also move. This movement triggers communications to the auditory nerve, which sends signals to the brain to interpret into sound. Pretty amazing!

Differences Between Species

Pet hearing is different than human hearing, though. Knowing these differences can help us to better appreciate our furry friends.

One of the main differences is the range of frequencies in which animals hear noise. Humans can detect sounds beginning at the 20 hertz frequency and ranging up to around 20,000 hertz. Dogs have a hearing range from about 40-60,000 hertz. That is why they go crazy for dog whistles that we can’t hear. Cats have even more impressive hearing, ranging up to 64,000 hertz. This probably helps them to hear prey that we aren’t even aware is nearby.

One additional difference between pets and people is the position of the ears. Our ears are fixed to the side of our heads, whereas animals (particularly those with erect ears) can alter their position to better trap sound. They function like little satellite dishes, swiveling around to pick up the best angle with which to hear.

Both cats and dogs have better hearing than we do, in part due to their need to hear prey. While many pets may exhibit selective hearing because they are too smart for their own good, pet hearing is much more sensitive than ours. A consistent lack of response to sound, or any other signs of hearing loss, should be investigated.