Shhhh! Did you hear something?
No? Ok, we didn't either.
Have you ever wondered how dogs and other animals can hear things that we can't? Do they really have better hearing than we do?
From a baby's sigh to a cruise ship foghorn, the average human ear can hear sounds between 20 and 20,000 Hertz. This is quite a range. Even though you can't see it, sound — just like light — is a traveling wave.
Humans perceive frequency of sound waves as pitch, or low and high notes. Sounds around 20 Hertz are very low, while sounds close to 20,000 Hertz are very high. Before you go bragging about having the best sense of hearing in the family, you should know that your family pet can hear about two times better than you!
If you have ever watched a dog listen, you will notice that they have the ability to move their ears in different directions. This helps them locate the exact source of a sound. If you're watching television and your dog walks into the room, he may move his ears to try and decide whether you're talking to him or the voice he hears is coming from the television.
Not only can dogs perceive frequencies almost twice that of human ears, they can also hear sounds approximately four times farther away than humans. Imagine you're in the middle of doing homework with the window open. Suddenly your dog goes running for the door, barking like crazy. It probably seems totally out of the blue, since nobody knocked or rang the doorbell.
A minute later, you hear a couple talking as they pass your house on the sidewalk with their dog. Even though you couldn't hear the couple until they were right in front of the window, your dog heard all kinds of things long before you did. He heard their footsteps, their voices, even the jingling of tags on their pup's collar.
This is because dogs have a much better hearing range than we do. What you hear at 20 feet, your dog can hear from 80 feet away. This super sense of hearing makes dogs well suited to guard the house and warn their owners when something is going on.
A dog's ultra-sensitive hearing is not just good for home protection. Many professional dog trainers use whistles to help with training. Whistles are especially popular for herding activities. By using a high-pitched whistle, it is possible for trainers to send signals to their dogs from great distances without ever saying a word.
Different blasts of the whistle mean different things. A certain blast tells the dogs to lie down, while other blasts of the whistle tell them to change direction or come back in.
Sometimes dogs howl because a certain sound hurts their ears, but that isn't always the case. In some situations, dogs howl at a noise because they have associated it with particular events. For example, a dog may howl when he hears the jingle of keys in the door, because he knows that means his master is home. Dogs may also howl because they think they have “chased" something away, such as a car or ambulance, by barking at it.
You may have noticed that, as your grandparents get older, their hearing isn't quite what it used to be. Even with their amazing sense of hearing, the same is true for dogs. Just like young people tend to have better hearing than older people, young dogs seem to hear a wider range of sounds than older dogs.
Think dogs have the ultimate sound system? Think again. There are many creatures in the animal kingdom that hear much better than dogs.
Before the award for best hearing goes to the dogs, it's important to note that cats actually have better hearing than canines. A cat's ear contains 30 different muscles, which allow it to rotate in many different directions. The shape of a cat ear funnels sound inside, carrying all kinds of information with it. A cat's sense of hearing is so exceptional, in fact, it can tell the difference between a human opening a regular cupboard door or the cupboard door with cans of cat food behind it.