Are Snakes Deaf? Find Out How They Sense Their Prey

Joan Agie
Oct 19, 2023 By Joan Agie
Originally Published on Oct 30, 2021
Close up of ball python on a branch.

Snake hearing has always been a subject of debate in science.

There was a common belief in the past, that snakes could not hear much or even anything, as they did not have external ears and didn't seem to respond to noises. However, from scientific research, this common misconception around deaf snakes was cleared up.

A snake is considered a unique animal. They have limbless bodies, flicking tongues, and the ability to devour prey whole. Snakes who burrow into the ground have got a tendency to be shorter in size and more compact.

All snakes have unblinking, lidless eyes, which also contain a protective transparent scale on each. They generally have weak eyesight. Snakes can not pay attention to airborne noise, however, they ‘pay attention’ via means of sensing the vibrations through their jawbones.

They mostly depend on their senses of smell to hunt down prey. But they also use their sight and sound too. They use them to find the location of their family or provide signals.

But the question arises, do snakes have ears? Is it true that snakes are deaf? How do they search for their prey, if they are blind and deaf?

Read on to access all information related to hearing in snakes. If you enjoy this article, do check out some more fun facts articles such as are snakes cold-blooded and are rabbits nocturnal when you aredone.

Do snakes have ears?

We know that ears are commonly made of three main parts. The external ear focuses sound at the eardrum.

The eardrum works as a separation of the external ear from the inner ear. The inner ear incorporates three bones that transmit sound from the eardrum to the internal ear through vibrations. The inner ear can interpret those vibrations as nerve impulses that visit the brain and thus cause hearing.

We understand that sound waves make their journey invisibly, and we can’t see them. The eardrum reports signals from those waves, hitting us at diverse frequency levels, and the end result is we hear something.

This isn't always very different from how a snake hears. The fundamental distinction is that the sound wave frequencies are felt within the ground by the snake, while the sound waves we hear are from airwaves.

For example, it's a false impression that snakes are nearly blind. While their imaginative and prescient ability isn’t as acute as a human's, they have got different equipment that works with sight to provide them a strong picture of the area around them.

Their hearing, in spite of a lack of ears, is superb.

They have a terrific sense of smell, which is so acute that it lets them know the precise path their prey goes and easily find out their location. In addition, there are a few snakes, the most notorious of which are the pit vipers, which have a unique infrared vision.

Snakes have cones present in their retina like humans; the cones detect color.

Pythons are carnivores, who survive primarily on small mammals and birds. A python has poor eyesight and generally stalks prey using chemical receptors in their tongues and heat-sensors along the jaws.

Snakes lack both an external ear and a middle ear. Then snakes are deaf? No, they're not. Due to this ear setup, snakes hear a limited number of frequencies. They can only listen to low frequencies and do not respond to excessive frequencies. These species only hear sound that is transmitted through the air.

Mechanoreceptors are tiny sensory nerves spaced through the pores and skin of the skull and connected to the spinal cord, permitting a snake to sense vibrations from the sand or soil. These vibrations circulate via the skull and alongside the spinal nerves to the brain, where they're identified as sounds.

These receptors are extraordinarily touchy and they react immediately to stimuli, permitting a snake to find the source of a sound. Snakes mostly rely on these Mechanoreceptors.

Can snakes hear?

Are snakes deaf? No, they aren't. Snakes lack the ears or eardrums that humans have.

In fact, there is an absence of external ears. Earlier, articles were written after observations were made by scientists that snakes could not respond to sounds, and thus were deaf. But now, scientists believe that there are a couple of different ways in which snakes may sense or "hear" sounds.

Snakes are only able to 'hear' or sense vibrations. They lack visible ears, so they don’t hear sounds as we do. But these species have vestiges ears located in the interior part of their head. That setup is connected up to their jawbones so that they sense vibrations thoroughly and can listen to low-frequency airborne noises.

How do snakes hear?

We know that snakes do lack outside ears, also called pinnae or eardrums, like we have, although they do have completely fashioned inner ear structures. In addition to their internal ear structures, they have got a bone referred to as the quadrate bone in their jaws. They barely move in reaction to vibrations whilst they slither on the floor.

Research has proven that these quadrate bones do, in fact, reply to airborne vibrations in addition to ground vibrations. The concept behind this is that snakes have spinal nerves which carry out the vibrations from the pores and skin, spotting them and causing the quadrate bones to vibrate, known as somatic hearing.

As with different snake ears, this vibration is transferred through bones to the internal ear after which indicators are dispatched to the brain and interpreted as sound.

What is the hearing frequency range of snakes?

Snakes are only able to detect a very low airborne frequency and ground vibrations of around 50-1,000 Hz through their inner ears. But there are a lot of doubts regarding what exactly a snake can hear.

There are some studies that have proved that their peak sensitivity at a frequency of 200-300 Hz, while some others show that it is in the range of 80-160 Hz. Humans have a normal hearing frequency of 20-20,000 Hz, but snakes have a limited range.

So, do you think snakes can hear you talk? Using the above information, we can now see that snakes can simply listen to very low sounds.

The sensitivity of a snake's listening is 200-300 Hz and the common human voice is at approximately 250 Hz. Hence, we are able to see that a snake can, in fact, listen to you speaking. This helps when snake owners claim that their pet snakes can understand their names being called, interpret them and respond.

Then how do they respond to the sound they hear? A snake can only pick up sound waves through the air.

It is because their skull senses the vibrations whenever a sound wave hits it. Although, a snake seems to hear only the low notes easier than the high ones. The impulses move directly from the skull to their inner ears, and then the vibrations are sensed by the brain and they respond.

They do not respond like humans. Snakes do respond to the vibrations transmitted directly from the air to the skull instead of responding to sound pressure.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for are snakes deaf then why not take a look at are pythons venomous, or anaconda facts.

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Written by Joan Agie

Bachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

Joan Agie picture

Joan AgieBachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.

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