Dogs’ hearing is four times more sensitive than humans, allowing them to perceive sounds from four times further away. They can hear sounds with higher frequencies, identify sounds more easily (for example, they may recognize the sound of your car), and determine the exact position of the sound.
Canines are very good at hearing and responding to high-frequency noises. The average adult human can’t hear sounds with a frequency greater than 20,000 Hertz (Hz), whereas infants and toddlers can. However, canines have a far wider range of hearing, picking up sounds from 47,000 to 65,000 Hz. These are very high-pitched noises, which we can’t even hear!
When hearing noises with a frequency between 3,000 and 12,000 Hz, canine ears are considerably more sensitive than humans. They can hear the noises at an intensity that ranges from five to fifteen decibels. This implies that dogs can hear noises that human ears cannot pick up because they are too quiet. Since the difference is so significant, there is no purpose in comparing the sensitivity of dogs’ hearing to noises over 12,000 Hz and that of human ears.
Dogs have a remarkable capacity to detect even the most subtle shifts in frequency. They can differentiate between musical notes! Humans can’t detect the same difference due to tone-deafness. On the other hand, our ability to pinpoint the source of a sound gives us an advantage over dogs. Only a one-degree difference in position is sufficient for humans to differentiate between two sounds. On the other hand, dogs must be kept at an eight-degree distance.
Physical Difference Between Hearing of Dogs and Humans
Dogs have big outer ears termed ‘pinnae,’ which are the most evident physical difference in hearing between humans and dogs.
The pinna works as a funnel for sound, amplifying it and directing it into the ear. Pinnae vary in size and form depending on the breed, funneling more or less sound or acting as a sound barrier when folded.
Human babies can hear from the moment they are born, yet it takes about a year for their hearing to fully develop. On the other hand, puppies are born deaf because their ear canals are blocked. Hearing soon improves to adult levels by day 20 after the ears open around day 12-14.
The ability to hear a sound is determined by three factors: frequency (how high or low the pitch is), amplitude (how loud or quiet the sound is), and duration (how long the sound lasts) (duration).
Human hearing ranges from 20 to 20,000 Hz, while a dog’s range is 65 to 45,000 Hz. This means that dogs can hear sounds with a higher pitch than humans, such as ultrasounds (>20,000 Hz) produced by certain rodents and insects.
Sound is created when there is vibration in the air. The louder something is and the higher its frequency, the more vibrations there will be every second. Metals provide high-frequency, piercing sounds, while basses produce low-frequency, boom-like tones.
Loud vibrations that occur at a rate of more than 20,000 times per second are inaudible to humans. Because our hearing worsens as we age, newborns can listen to higher frequencies than their parents do, but not as well as dogs do.
Dogs can hear noises with a vibrational frequency of up to 50,000Hz. It is because a dog whistle often makes a sound with a frequency of more than 20,000 Hz that dogs react to it, even though it seems to humans as if it is quiet.
Dogs’ sensitivity to low-pitched sounds, on the other hand, is like that of humans.
Processing the Sounds
In humans, the left hemisphere of the brain is in charge of most of the language processing – the area where we speak things—the right hemisphere processes speech with increased, positive vocal inflection — the how we say it part.
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The canines in a study showed that they all listen in the same way, which was previously thought to be a human-only talent. When confronted with an unfamiliar language, their focus moved from linguistic to emotional content.
If you’ve ever traveled to a nation where the language isn’t your first language, you’ll understand how this works. When you’re listening to a language you don’t understand, you pay attention to nonverbal indicators such as tone and inflection to figure out what you’re hearing. It turns out that our dogs will perform the same feat when placed in a similar setting. This is an incredible testament to how developed a dog’s hearing abilities are and their ability to emotionally process those sounds when the scene in which they are placed might not allow them to understand those sounds thoroughly.
Developed for Hunting
Dogs’ heightened sensitivity to high frequencies stems from their evolutionary history as carnivores. Mice and other tiny rodents are the wolves’ primary source of nutrition. Wolves are the canine ancestors. Therefore, being able to hear the squeaks made by the little creatures is essential for survival. Because humans evolved to collaborate with others, their ears are tuned to the pitch of human speech.
It is believed that a dog’s sensitivity to higher-pitched noises may explain a few different dog-related phenomena. It’s more likely that dogs with very sensitive hearing may detect earthquakes before they even happen. Dogs have extrasensory perception. And, instead of having some sixth sense, their ability to predict someone’s arrival at your door is probably because they can detect the sound of a car before you can hear it yourself.
Our Final Thoughts
Because they are louder to dogs than humans, ordinary sounds such as a vacuum cleaner or a power drill may be rather upsetting to dogs. Additionally, dogs can hear high-pitched sounds that humans cannot hear coming from these gadgets. So the next time your dog gets jittery when the vacuum is on, try keeping your dog away from the sound!