Can Sharks Hear: How, Where, When, Several Facts


The ability to hear is present in almost all living animals, yet the degree of hearing varies greatly between species. While birds and mammals have ear canals to aid hearing, fish have otoliths that do the same thing.

Sharks can hear despite not having any outside ears. Unlike most living beings, sharks possess inner ears. One can get a hint of their ears by looking at the holes on either side of a shark’s head. And despite sharks not having fully visible ears like humans, the sound is the first thing to make these fishes aware of nearby prey.

Can Sharks Hear
Image Credit: Sharks have inner ears that look like a tiny hole behind their eyes from Maxpixel

Along with sharks’ ability to hear, the water medium helps them in the better hearing mechanism. We say so because, sound travels faster in any liquid medium, enabling these predators to even hear the sound that is far from them.

Since detecting prey from a distance paves way for better hunting, the ability of keen hearing plays a big role in a shark’s life. Fascinating right? So, we have dedicated this post specifically to exploring the hearing ability and mechanisms of sharks, and the facts associated with it. 

How many senses do sharks possess? 

There is a usual perception that humans possess 5 senses, which is correct. But there are senses outside what we know. So, how many senses do a shark possess?

Sharks mainly possess six acute senses:

  • Sight
  • Hearing
  • Taste
  • Touch
  • Smell
  • Electroreception

These senses help these fishes to make sense of their surroundings. As a result, they have maximized their abilities to make use of all these six senses to survive underwater. 

Can sharks hear the sound?

Sharks have extremely keen senses. These senses are used by these apex predators to hunt prey and battle threats. And the ability to hear a sound plays a significant part in all of these.

Sharks are capable of hearing. Hearing is, in fact, one of the most developed senses in sharks. Sharks’ ears are extremely sensitive, and they can hear vibrations (from other fish and sea organisms) far better. In this regard, it’s worth noting that sharks are better at hearing deep low-pitched sounds between 20 and 300 hertz.

That being said, how clear a shark can hear often depends on external factors as well. Factors like distance of the sound source, its magnitude, and so on. 

How good can sharks hear?

Sharks’ senses are incredibly active. Their senses aid them in hunting and fighting underwater.

Sharks’ hearing is quite sensitive, and they can hear low-frequency pulsing sounds. Sharks appear to be able to detect sounds in the 20-300 hertz range at a distance of up to 800 feet.

Do sharks have ears?

Have you ever seen sharks with their ears? No, which leads us to wonder if these predators have any ears at all.

If we consider ears to be something that humans and other mammals have, then sharks do not have (external) ears. They do, however, have internal ears. The two tiny apertures on either side of a shark’s head give us an indication of this from the outside.

The auditory function of a shark’s ear is provided by three semicircular canals, each of which contains four sensory maculae. Sharks’ sound perception is controlled by the sacculus, lagena, and utriculus.

Can sharks hear heartbeats?

Image Credit: Sharks outside cage by
kalanz
(CC BY-SA 2.0) from Wikimedia

Sharks’ sense of hearing is acute, especially when it is low-pitched. And human heartbeat produces a low-pitched sound. So can sharks hear heartbeats?

Sharks can detect human heartbeats in water. Human heartbeats produce low-frequency sounds, between 20 and 150 hertz, which make it possible for sharks to hear them. Sharks can sense the heartbeat of any prey through their super-sensitive electro-sensory organs. They do it by picking up the faintest electrical signal in water.

That said, sharks are found to be highly interested in fast heartbeats. They can hear the sound of fear. As a result, it is often recommended to slow down the beating of the heart to survive a shark encounter underwater.  

Can sharks hear underwater?

The liquid is a great medium for sound (of any type) to travel fast, and sharks possess a keen hearing ability. So, do these two things combine and help sharks hear better underwater?

Sharks can hear underwater. They do not possess external ears and use their internal ears to detect even the faintest sound from a great distance. Several studies have demonstrated that some shark species are drawn to sounds heard from hundreds of yards away. When the sound is between 20 and 300 hertz, pulsing wildly, these fishes get highly fascinated.

Do sharks use echolocation? 

Echolocation means locating an object using reflective sound. Some fishes and mammals use this technique underwater. Can the same be stated for sharks?

To sense vibrations and movements in the water, sharks employ lateral lines or the lateral line system. Sharks use lateral line systems to detect prey. To be more specific, sharks use a combination of lateral lines, the capacity to detect low-pitched sounds, and nimble swimming patterns to locate food and avoid threats.

Sharks, however, lack external hearing and so are unable to pinpoint the position of any sound. Instead, they investigate the sound waves and from where they might travel.

Can sharks hear outside of the water?

Image Credit: A shark jumping out of the water by kalhh from Pixabay

Sharks are very good at catching low-pitched sound underwater. But can the same be stated for them when outside the water?

Sharks, like other fish, use the vibrations produced by sound waves in the water to locate food or objects. However, because sound travels differently in air and water, the same cannot be said outside of the water. As a result, a shark may be unable to hear any voice or sound directed at them.

Fish, including sharks, are, however, sensitive to pressure vibrations. As a result, how a shark reacts or responds is determined by the type and strength of the vibrations they receive.

Are sharks sensitive to any specific sound?

Hearing is an essential trait that sharks have developed over years to survive underwater. However, is any specific sound these predators are sensitive to?

Low-frequency sound waves or vibrations are very sensitive to sharks. Sharks are particularly sensitive to erratic wave pulsed sounds (between 20 and 300 Hertz) produced by injured prey. It helps them to detect the prey for hunting.

Sharks’ inner ears are made up of small hairs that vibrate when they receive any sound wave, causing their brain to tinkle to comprehend the type and location of the sound. In other words, the hearing cells in a shark’s brain are stimulated by irregular sound waves underwater.

What is a “yummy hum”?

Are you acquainted with the term ‘dinner bell’? If not, then it is a bell that was rung to let cattle know that it was time for food. Cattle used to associate the sound of the diner bell with food.

Yummy hum is the dinner bell of sharks. It’s a low-pitched sound that alerts sharks to the presence of their prey. This hypothesis was evolved as a result of sharks’ ability to pick up infrasonic sounds underwater to search for food. As a result, anytime they hear an infrasonic sound created by an injured fish, it’s more like a delicious hum signaling that their order is ready!

However, keep in mind that sharks never hear a true hum. Instead, they get erratic pulsating signals that alert them to possible prey.

How far can sharks hear?

Sharks only have an inner ear, which allows them to hear and decode sound waves underwater. What is their hearing range, though?

Sharks can hear prey up to 800 feet away, which is the equivalent of two football fields. Their hearing talents, among other things, make them one of the world’s most dangerous predators.

Can great white sharks hear?

The hearing abilities of sharks are so strong that people can vouch for them. However, can we say the same thing about great white sharks?

Great white sharks are among the top marine predators, and their keen sense of hearing helps them survive and hunt. That said, great white sharks can hear frequencies as low as 100 Hz and as high as 2,200 Hz.

Great white sharks, like other shark species, can hear even the faintest of sounds in the water surrounding them. Their inner ears act meticulously to transfer the vibrations to their brain and stimulate the auditory cells. 

Did Megalodons have a good hearing sense?

Megalodon or the Meg was once the largest shark to roam in oceans. Although they are an extinct species now, some facts still fascinate people about them.

The Meg is often considered as the largest version of great white sharks that could sense a prey 3 miles away. Hence, it can be stated that the Meg also possessed a keep hearing ability that made them a fierce and active predator of the marine world. Like, other sharks, experts are estimating that the Meg also could sense low-frequency sounds keenly. 

Summary

With this, we have come to an end to our exploration of sharks’ hearing capabilities. Despite not having any external ears, with only internal ears, sharks have a hearing capability that is keen, acute, and high. Hearing plays a crucial role in sharks’ lives as they use this skill to detect prey, decode their location, and fight enemies. So, whenever, you are underwater, always remember any activity that creates vibration in water may make sharks aware of your presence! 

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