Do Turtles & Tortoises Have Ears?

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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The ability of turtles and tortoise to hear is not one of the first things that comes to thoughts if you picture of these reptiles. Many people are under the impression that turtles and tortoises do not have the ability to perceive sound. Are there ears on turtles and tortoises, then?

There is no external ear in turtles and tortoises. They have internal ear which is covered by a ridge of scales on the side of its skull. The ear drum, which is likewise coated in scales, is located behind the eyes.

So, while turtles and tortoises lack external ears, they nonetheless possess functional auditory organs inside their skulls. Let’s examine the inner workings of a turtle’s and tortoises ear for a more complete picture of its auditory system.

How Do Turtles Hear?

To understand a turtle’s hearing, it’s important to understand how a turtle’s ears function. Because of their high sensitivity to low frequencies, turtles are very skilled listeners for things like thunder and earthquakes.

Navigation and communication rely heavily on these low-frequency noises. With the use of low-frequency communication, young sea turtles of many types, such as the arrau, may draw the attention of adult females who will care for and protect them.

How Does A Turtle’s Ear Work?

There are a few different elements that make up a turtle’s ear. They include the inner ear, the middle ear, and the external auditory canal. 

The turtle’s external ear flaps are sensitive to vibrations in the air and are used to record sound. Since they do not possess external ears, turtles are only able to perceive sounds within a certain frequency band.

In contrast, the outer ear of a human is curved in a way that encourages the conduction of sound further into inner ear.

Contrarily, turtles have little flaps on each side of their skull. The cutaneous plate is the name given to the flaps that shield the turtle’s ear canal.

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The skin on the turtle’s head is consistent with the skin on the remainder of its body. The middle ear is responsible for carrying the sound waves picked up by the flaps on the outer ear to the auditory nerve in the brain.

The inner ear receives sound waves, processes them, and sends the information to the brain, where it is interpreted. 

The turtle will thereafter be able to detect the sound and respond appropriately. The vibrations or sound waves serve several functions, including protecting the turtle from danger while also aiding in the pursuit of food and directional awareness.

The ear structure of a turtle prevents it from picking up high-frequency noises like the singing of birds (with frequencies between 1,000 Hz and 8,000 Hz), but it can detect vibrations and other low-frequency sounds like the beating of drums.

How Do Turtles Hear Underwater?

Unlike on land, a turle’s hearing is enhanced when swimming. This occurs because there is a layer of subcutaneous fat behind the flaps. 

Due to the thickness of their skin and fat-coated shells, land turtles have problems hearing. Yet when submerged, all that extra skin and fat makes for a fantastic sound conductor.

As a result, both freshwater and marine turtles have enhanced hearing while submerged compared to those on land.

What Is The Audible Range For Turtles?

It seems that turtles can hear frequencies from about 200 to 750 Hz. Because of this, turtles are often unimpressed by frequencies above a 1,000 hertz.

Hearing in the range of 200 Hz to 500 Hz seems to be particularly acute for green sea turtles, according to studies. Comparatively, the human ear can detect sounds between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz.

How Do Tortoises Hear?

While it’s common knowledge that tortoises may be trained to do simple tasks, tortoises are fundamentally different from the majority of household pets.

Some tortoise owners even go so far as to claim their pets can understand human speech. Is it true that tortoises answer when called, and exactly how do they listen?

Ears are a telltale feature of most mammals, including humans, yet tortoises’ ears are completely unique.

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There is no external ear on these creatures. Behind a row of scales on one side of its skull lies an ear. Scales cover the eardrum, which is located behind the eyes.

The bony box that wraps around the ear and is known as the optic capsule is unique to mammals and does not appear in any other reptiles or animals.

As a result, tortoises must depend on their sense of touch, since it is via this sensation that they are able to detect vibrations in the surface.

The eardrum receives these vibrations after they have traveled up the legs and onto the shell. The reality of the situation is that your tortoise does not really hear very much.

It is capable of processing and react to frequencies, including those created during fighting, mating, and the hatching of eggs, among other activities. 

If you give it some thought, when was the last time you saw your tortoise making any kind of noise?

How Much Do Tortoises Rely On Hearing?

Tortoises don’t depend much on hearing, but they do rely heavily on their keen eyesight and acute sense of smell.

Some of them have a very good idea of when things happen, like when you arrive back from work or when they are fed. 

They will connect the sound of your footfall with food, and they might even be able to smell the meal while it is being prepared.

These reptiles have great eyesight and may learn to identify their caretakers. They may use additional cues, such as vibration patterns, to determine who is coming.

Do Turtles Get Ear Infections?

Due to the presence of ear canals, turtles are susceptible to otitis (middle ear infection to be specific).

This disease is particularly prevalent in box turtles and other species of turtles native to watery environments. 

If the infection is not treated, the ear canal will fill with hard, sticky pus. An aural abscess is the medical term for this condition. It looks like a bump on the turtle’s face.

Immediate care for an ear abscess is essential. This is due to the possibility of the infection spreading to the jaw and skull if it remains undetected. It’s possible for the bulging membrane on top of the skull to burst.

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What Causes And How To Avoid Ear Infections In Turtles? 

Infection in the turtle’s ears indicates that its immune system is compromised. Inadequate husbandry and/or a lack of vitamin A in the turtle’s food are mainly to blame for this.

The turtle’s diet should be supplemented with multivitamins and minerals, including vitamin D and calcium. If you have an ear infection, vitamin A is a requirement.

Most commercial turtle feeds, like Mazuri Aquatic Turtle Diet and Reptomin Floating Food Sticks provide enough vitamin A for your turtle.

A turtle may survive on a diet of insects, weeds, and greens; but, in this case, it is important to provide a balanced diet by include other foods.

The term “bad husbandry” refers to the absence of proper plumbing and hygiene. The water in an aquarium has to be changed often and filtered using an aquarium filter.

Apart from the contents, the tank itself requires frequent cleaning. Having a routine that you stick to religiously is crucial.

Infection might also arise after a membrane injury. An abusive roommate or aquarium decor might be at blame.

What Are The Symptoms Of Ear Infections?

Common signs of an ear infection include:

  • The membrane that lines the ear becomes inflamed and swollen.
  • Having trouble eating since it hurts the turtle to open its mouth and swallow.
  • Inflammation of the eye, with thick pus draining through the eardrum.

How To Treat Ear Infection In Turtles?

Ear infections are difficult to diagnose and should only be treated by a medical specialist. A complete physical examination and maybe bloodwork will be performed by the herp vet.

After the source of the illness has been established, treatment may begin. If necessary, the doctor will operate on the turtle and rinse the canal with saline solution to eliminate any pus.

The skin membrane needs time to repair, so expect it to take a few weeks.

Before You Go

Although it’s not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a turtle and tortoises, these reptiles do have ears and can pick up on noises.

They behave much like other animals, but in extremely peculiar ways. Here is another interesting read for you to check out- 10 Most Weird Things That Scare Turtles

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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