How Do Snakes Hear?

You’ve probably seen those videos with snake charmers playing music to snakes, but have you ever wondered if this is real? 

Can snakes even hear? 

If you have a pet snake at home, you may be asking: 

How do snakes hear?

While snakes do not have traditional ears like humans, they’re still able to “hear” by sensing vibrations in both the ground and air. Scientists now believe snakes can indeed “hear,” but the way they do it is different from humans.

If you want to learn more about snake hearing, keep reading the rest of this article!

how do snakes hear

Do Snakes Have Ears?

Interestingly, snakes do not have external ears to sense sounds. 

They have small openings on the sides of their heads behind their eyes; whereas most animals have fluid in their inner ears, snakes only have air and no eardrums. 

These openings are subject to infection, so make sure you visit a vet if you think your snake may be having signs of sickness.

At first, scientists assumed snakes were deaf and completely unable to hear a sound. 

However, after some research, they realized they were wrong. 

Understanding the way humans hear may help you understand the different mechanisms in snakes. 

Humans have external ears. 

These carry sound waves which hit the eardrum, which causes movement and vibration of tiny bones. 

These get translated into nerve impulses, which are translated by the brain into sound. 

Although snakes do not have external ears, they do have a similar internal hearing structure. 

In contrast, their inner ear is linked to their jawbone, which can feel vibratory sensations from the ground as they slither. 

The specific bone in their jawbone is called the quadrate bone. 

This is how they sense when predators are approaching. 

Also, since the left and right side of a snake’s jaw can function independently, they’re able to sense the direction of the vibrations, allowing them to figure out the direction of the sounds.

How Do Snakes Hear Sounds In The Air?

So we’ve established snakes can “hear” via vibrations in the ground sensed by their jawbones. 

But can they hear sounds in the air? 

A study done in ball pythons found they could sense vibrations directly through the air. 

They seem to hear lower notes more strongly than higher notes, though this implication for their survival in the wild is still being explored. 

Scientists also wonder if there are other special senses snakes possess, which we do not understand as humans. 

If you’re wondering whether or not your pet snake can hear you when you talk to it, the science suggests your little critter most likely can. 

 Many snake owners like to say their snake can recognize its name, and there’s some truth to the statement. 

Snakes can hear anywhere from 40 to 2,000 Hertz, and the human voice averages 500 to 1,000 Hertz, which places our voices within their hearing range.

How Do Snakes Hear The Music Of A Snake Charmer?

Snake charming is so-called because it looks like the snake is being hypnotized by the music played, which comes from an instrument called a pungi. 

The snakes used in these performances are usually cobras, though vipers, pythons, and other species are also used. 

They’re kept in baskets or sacks to protect the humans who own them.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the music capturing the attention of the snake. 

Instead, the snake is following the movement of the pungi. 

The snake considers both the pungi and the person wielding it to be a threat and therefore reacts to it as it would a predator.

The act of snake charming is starting to die down. 

It has the most popularity in the country of India; however, recent laws have made it illegal to own snakes, making it difficult for snake charmers to continue performing.

Can Loud Noise Stress Out A Snake?

Repeated loud noises cause distress in a snake and lead to health problems if not adequately addressed. 

If you own a snake and keep it in a frequently noisy environment, you may want to pay attention to this particular section.

The vibrations of loud noises or music cause constant reactions in your snake’s body. 

Snakes can sometimes be scared away in the wild by stomping frequently and rapidly near them. 

The quick vibrations can shock a snake enough to slither away. 

Music, which usually has quick frequencies, causes the same reaction.

If you frequently listen to loud music around your pet snake, consider using headphones or another technique to prevent the noises from disturbing your pet. 

Monitoring your snake for signs of stress related to loud music is similar to monitoring them for stress related to anything else: 

  • Check if they’re becoming more lethargic than usual
  • If they change their eating or basking habits
  • If there are changes to their urates or feces

Any of these may necessitate a trip to the vet.

How Do Snakes Communicate?

Unlike a lot of other animals, snakes don’t usually use sound to communicate with each other. 

The sounds they use to ward off predators, like hissing and rattling, are at frequencies which are too high for them to hear. 

This means most snakes cannot utilize the sounds made by another snake as warning signs of a predator. 

Instead, they have to monitor their environment using the ground-borne vibrations we discussed earlier.

Conclusion

Now you know how snakes hear. 

It’s a common myth people believe thinking snakes are deaf. 

However, though they don’t hear the same way we do, snakes make sense of the noises in their environment. 

So the next time you’re around your pet snake, talk to it a bit! 

Maybe it understands you.

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