Can Turtles Hear? (And How Good They Are At Hearing Sounds?)

can turtles hear

There is a misconception among people regarding turtles that they are not able to hear anything. All such claims are completely rubbish and baseless. Studies suggest that the turtles do have a functional ear, and they can hear well. However, their hearing ability is different as compared to humans or other animals. 

CT scan and MRI study on turtle’s ears are evident enough to understand that they possess better hearing abilities underwater than land. Various studies on different types of turtle and tortoise species also share the same results. The fact also concludes that turtles evolved from aquatic ancestors. 

This article will discuss everything about the turtle’s hearing ability and other related questions. We will try to find out if turtles have ears and discover how good they are at hearing sounds. So keep on reading to find out the answers.   

Also Read: Do Turtles Have Tails?

Do turtles have ears?

Yes, turtles do have ears. However, their ears are not visible as they are covered by thick skin, known as cutaneous plate, which is a ring scale almost similar to that on the rest of the head. 

Turtles show sensitivity to low-frequency sounds, usually between 200 and 750 Hz. The turtles are not capable of hearing sound having frequency beyond 1000Hz.

Can turtles hear?

Yes, turtles are well equipped to hear sounds having a frequency between 200 and 750 Hz. Turtles show an inability to hear sound beyond 1000Hz of frequency. 

The outer ears of turtles are covered with skin flaps, which then connect to the ear canal. When sound or vibration hits the outer skin of the turtle, it is transferred to the inner ear through the ear canal, which is then processed by the brain. Turtles show better hearing ability underwater as compared on land. 

As we know, turtles can hear low-frequency sounds and vibrations; let’s try to understand how well they can hear. 

How good can turtles hear?

Turtles do not have ears like humans or other mammals. They do have ears, but it is inside the flaps of skins called cutaneous plates. These plates act as sound receptors, and they generate the vibration, which then passes to the middle and inner ear. 

As the outer ear of turtles is covered with thick skin, they show very less hearing ability on land. It is believed that turtles use their other sensory organs, mainly eyes, and nose, to detect predators when on land. They can hear low-frequency sounds clearly, but they show poor ability in hearing high-frequency sounds. 

How does a turtle’s ear work?

Turtles do have functional ears, but they are not like human ears. Turtle’s ear can be classified into three parts: outer ear skin, middle ear, and the inner ear. As with most reptiles, turtles also have a single bone in their middle ear. Once sound struck on the cutaneous plate, they produce vibrations which are then conducted to the inner ear passing through the middle ear. 

The inner ear intercepts the sound waves and transfers them to the brain for further processing. 

As they don’t have an outer ear, this restricts their ability only to hear sounds having a frequency between 200 Hz to 500 Hz. If we compare it to the sound frequency which humans can hear is from 20 to 20,000Hz. 

What are low frequency and high frequency? To give you a broader idea about different frequencies, I am attaching a video representing sound produced by different frequencies ranging from 20Hz to 20,000Hz. I hope you will get a basic idea of what is low and high frequency. 

How do turtles hear on land?

Turtles are not very good at hearing sounds on land. This is because of the thick skin layer which covered their ear holes. They mostly rely on their sensory organs such as eyes and nose for detecting any predator or food on land.

Human ears are designed to draw sound inside the ear, but this is not the case with turtles. Their ears are covered with thick skin flaps, allowing low-frequency sound and vibration inside the inner ear canal. Although turtles can hear practically, they are not very sensitive to sounds. 

High-frequency sounds like the chirping of birds are beyond the hearing limits of the turtle. However, they can hear low-frequency sounds such as birds flying in the sky or changing air velocity or pressure by moving objects. 

For protecting themselves from any threat on land, they mostly rely on their eyes and olfactory ability. Turtles don’t have eardrums, but they have small bones in their inner ear, which helps them distinguish sound and vibration. Sound waves after reaching the inner ear are passed to the brain for further interpretation. 

How do turtles hear underwater?

Turtles can hear sounds much better underwater as compared to land. The reason behind this is their ear structure. The turtle’s ears are designed so that they are covered with thick skin from outside. This extra layer of skin acts as a sound conductor in water, helping them hear better than land. 

According to a report published by NCBI, turtles show a lower underwater threshold than on-air, which further helps them improve their hearing ability underwater. This report also mentioned that all turtles and tortoises have the same middle ear cavity morphology, which makes them more suitable for underwater hearing. 

Turtles are evolved so that they can sense every little vibration and sound created by any moving object around them. In water, the inner ear of turtles helps them sense the vibration and change in air pressure. This ability serves them well in dodging predators and prey underwater. 

Do turtles like music?

Turtles may or may not like music, and it depends on what you are playing. Turtles are not very good at hearing high-frequency sounds. They do hear low-frequency sounds but are not very sensitive to sounds on land. 

It is practically not possible to describe what kind of music your turtle may or may not like. Some research on turtles suggests that they better enjoy low-frequency instruments such as the cello. They are not efficient in intercepting high pitch music, as they fall beyond the higher frequency hearing limit. 

Turtles enjoy music very differently than humans. For them, music is some changing vibrations only. Turtles might be able to hear certain instruments like bass. On the other hand, certain instruments might not be heard well due to the high-frequency hearing restriction in turtles. 

Can turtles hear humans?

Yes, turtles are equipped enough to hear humans. As the turtles are much more responsive to loud noise, you probably need to speak louder than usual, so your best buddy can hear your voice. 

The turtle’s hearing range

Turtles show better hearing ability for the sound frequency between 200 and 750 Hz. On the other hand, they won’t be able to hear the sound, which falls beyond the frequency of 1000Hz.

One exception is there in the case of green sea turtles. They show hearing ability for the sound of frequency 200-500Hz only.  


Turtles do have functioning ears and are in no way deaf. They can hear low-frequency sounds very well. For higher frequency sounds, they show poor hearing ability. The structure of the turtle’s ear helps them sense vibration and sound waves underwater easily. They show much lower hearing ability on land as compared to underwater.