A quick human-vs-rodent hearing comparison — Vibrasure | Vibration + Acoustical Consulting (2023)

Anyone who has designed animal laboratory spaces realizes that the animals have unique needs. One problem that comes up often with animal facilities is designing them for reasonable acoustics and noise control. Just like our human customers, we want our animal customers to have safe and comfortable places to live.

And in fact, we have been designing buildings for animal occupants forever; it’s just that the species has almost always been homo sapiens. That means we are awash in engineering data that are relevant only to human needs: acoustical data for everything from fan sound levels to duct attenuation to wall noise transmission to finish material absorption are all available, but (mostly) only at the frequencies that matter to people.

While it’s difficult to get engineering data for machines, materials, and systems, we can get some data on animal hearing. So, at least we can make educated guesses about what the animals are experiencing by paying attention to how their hearing differs from ours.

The plot above is called an audiogram: it describes the threshold of hearing. I’ve plotted humans (from an ISO standard) and a particular rat (from Rickye Heffner's fantastic archive of mammalian hearing data).

The figure is really simple to read: each point on the curve tells you the quietest sound that the animal can hear at different frequencies. So, for example, from the human audiogram you can see that people hear pretty well at 1,000Hz; here, the threshold of hearing is a scant 2 decibels. For rats, however, the threshold is more like 24dB. That means that a 20dB sound at 1,000Hz would be easily audible to you but would be entirely inaudible to the rodent. The very top end of human hearing, commonly taken to be 20,000Hz(which most people can't truly hear, anyway), is comfortably in the middle of the rat's hearing range, which stretches from a few hundred Hertz up to perhaps 70,000Hz.

One way that we could get a handle on rodent hearing would be to try to find some sort of “exchange rate” between the human and rat audiograms. It’s true that for much of the spectrum, humans appear to have better hearing than rats: you might notice that the lowest point on the human audiogram is actually below the lowest points on the rat audiogram. But this difference is not especially meaningful from our perspective: it’s a modest difference, and thresholds themselves don’t tell us much about what kinds of amplitudes might be annoying or painful, anyway.

Instead, the more important difference is frequency. And here is where my proposed exchange rate comes in. Forgive my poor web-animation capabilities; I’m going to show this in two parts. First, let’s separate out the x-axis (frequency) on the audiogram, so that we can keep an eye on what we're doing:

Now, we have one axis for rats (in orange) and another one for humans (in blue). Next, I’ll slide the two curves so that their shapes coincide as best as possible. Since the rat hearing is strongly biased to higher frequencies, this means that I have to slide the human audiogram far to the right:

And there we have it: the audiograms overlap pretty well when we slide the frequency axis by a factor of about 6. Note that we didn't have to stretch or distort the frequency axis; all we did was slide them past each other. I'm sure you could come up with a more-sophisticated mapping, but it's a lot more straightforward to just keep that 6:1 exchange rate in mind: rats' experience of sound at 6,000Hzis probably pretty similar to your experience of sound at 1,000Hz.

So, if our rats ever develop their own tiny little Hi-Fi systems, they will design their adjustments for bass / midrange / treble at about 6x higher frequency than on our systems. And in the meantime, with this kind of thinking we can do a little better job designing facilities for our animal customers.


How good is a rats hearing compared to humans? ›

The frequency range of rat hearing is approximately 250 Hz to 80 kHz with the greatest sensitivity occurring between 8 and 38 kHz, a range much higher than that found in humans. In contrast, the middle ear mucosa and ossicles are remarkably similar to humans.

Which frequencies can humans hear but mice Cannot? ›

Mouse hearing extends into the ultrasonic frequencies and ranges from 1 to about 100 kHz7,9 whereas the human hearing range is between 20 Hz and 20 kHz.

What frequency range can humans hear? ›

Humans can detect sounds in a frequency range from about 20 Hz to 20 kHz. (Human infants can actually hear frequencies slightly higher than 20 kHz, but lose some high-frequency sensitivity as they mature; the upper limit in average adults is often closer to 15–17 kHz.)

How do human hearing thresholds compare to those of other animals? ›

Of 19 primates tested, the Japanese macaque had the widest range, 28 Hz–34.5 kHz, compared with 31 Hz–17.6 kHz for humans.

Is human hearing better or worse than animals? ›

Most scientists now agree that, while human ears may not hear the high frequencies audible to some of our mammalian relatives, we have better frequency selectivity than most of those animals.

Can animals hear different sound frequencies than humans? ›

Humans generally have a hearing range of between 20 and 20,000 hz, which is actually very impressive. However, elephants can hear waves as low as 14 hz, while cats can hear up to 64,000 hz frequencies, and bats can sometimes pick up noises as high as 200,000 hz.

What sounds can humans not hear? ›

Humans can hear sounds having frequencies between the range of 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz. The sounds above and below this range are inaudible to humans. The sounds below the range of 20 Hz are called infrasounds and the sounds above the range of 20,000 Hz are called ultrasounds. Both are inaudible to humans.

Which animals can not listen to the sound instead they listen to the vibration by feeling it through their skins? ›

  • Snakes can't hear the sounds but respond only by feel the vibrations through their skin.
  • They do not have external ears,
  • They only feel the vibrations on the ground.

What is normal hearing for a 70 year old? ›

The prevalence of hearing loss increased with age at all frequencies for both men and women. Among participants aged 60 – 69, 42.7% had a hearing loss at 3000 Hz, 54.3% at 4000 Hz and 79.5% at 6000 Hz. Among the participants 70 years or older, the figures were 70.7% at 3000 Hz, 78.4% at 4000 Hz and 93.2% at 6000 Hz.

What age do you stop hearing high frequencies? ›

Adults lose their ability to hear sounds above 15,000 Hz starting at the age of about 25. In laboratory conditions, the human hearing frequency range can go up to 28,000 Hz or as low as 12 Hz.

What is the fastest vibration frequency the human ear hears? ›

While 20 to 20,000Hz forms the absolute borders of the human hearing range, our hearing is most sensitive in the 2000 - 5000 Hz frequency range.

Is there some link between the size of animals and their hearing answer? ›

The animals with larger ears can hear better because their ears can collect more sound waves.

Do rodents have good hearing? ›

Rats have excellent hearing and can detect sound in the range 200Hz to 90,000Hz (Mice 100Hz to 90,000Hz). As a comparison, humans can hear in the range 20Hz to 20,000Hz. This demonstrates that rats not only have a greater range of hearing but can detect ultrasonic sound (20,000Hz and above).

Why do some animals have better hearing than humans? ›

The canine ear canal is considerably longer than in humans. Muscles allow it to finely tune the position of this ear canal so that it can localise a sound, hear it more accurately and from farther away.

Who has better hearing capability? ›

Elephants have some of the best hearing around. They can hear at frequencies 20 times lower than humans.

How much better is dog hearing than human hearing? ›

Dogs hear nearly twice as many frequencies as humans. They can also hear sounds four times further away — so what human ears can hear from 20 feet away; our dogs can hear from 80 feet away.

What animal is bad at hearing? ›

Naked mole rats are nearly deaf because their ears can't amplify sound. Naked mole rats have poor hearing because, unlike other mammals, they have abnormal outer hair cells that can't amplify sound. The animals could be used to model human deafness and help develop treatments.

What animal has a better hearing than a dog? ›

But which animal has the better auditory system? The answer may surprise you. The feline sense of hearing is considerably more sensitive than dogs and humans (and many other mammals). A healthy cat's hearing ability is a true biological marvel.

What animal has best eyesight? ›

Eagles – Best Eyes in the Animal Kingdom

To put that into perspective, an eagle has the visual acuity of 20/5 – meaning that it can see at 20 feet what a human with 20/20 vision would need to be 5 feet away from to see. By this standard, an eagle's visual acuity is 4 times stronger than ours.

What animal has the best smell? ›

Dogs, most of us think, have the best noses on the planet. But a new study reveals that this honor actually goes to elephants. The power of a mammal's sniffer hinges on the number and type of its olfactory receptor genes.

Which animal has the most similar hearing to humans? ›

An owl's hearing range of frequencies is similar to a human, but much more acute at certain frequencies. This helps owls hear even the slightest movements.

What frequency do animals vibrate at? ›

These values were compared with calculated and measured values, respectively, of 4 to 8 Hz (4 to 8 Hz) for human abdomen and thorax,19 20 to 30 Hz (20 to 28 Hz) for human head, 27 to 29 Hz (28 Hz) for rat abdomen, 225 to 230 Hz (228 Hz) for rat thorax, and 75 to 80 Hz (76 Hz) for rat head.

Which animal can hear higher frequencies than humans? ›


Their hearing excels in the higher frequencies six times higher than humans at 12,000Hz. Their ears also help them keep cool.

What sound do humans hate the most? ›

A knife scraping against a glass bottle is the most unpleasant sound for most human beings, researchers from the Newcastle University and Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL, both in England, reported in the Journal of Neuroscience.

What are 2 sounds not safe for human ears? ›

Everyday loud activities CAN permanently hurt your hearing. Damage to your hearing can be caused by lawn equipment, power tools, concerts, sporting events, fireworks, and firearms. A single exposure to excessive noise can also cause permanent hearing loss.

What is the most annoying sound to the human ear? ›

The ear-splitting screech of a knife on a glass bottle has been identified as the worst sound to the human ear by scientists who studied the brain's response to unpleasant noises.

Which animals hear through vibration? ›

Vibrational communication is an ancient sensory modality and it is widespread in the animal kingdom where it has evolved several times independently. It has been reported in mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, arachnids, crustaceans and nematode worms.

What animals communicate through vibrations? ›

Now, scientists suspect that more than 200,000 insect and arachnid species use seismic communication systems, including crickets, katydids, spiders, and scorpions. Crustaceans do, too.

Which animal can feel vibration in the air? ›

The tiger's whiskers are very sensitive and can sense the movements or vibrations in air. They help the tiger move in the dark and find its prey. The tiger is one of the most alert animals.

What medications cause hearing loss? ›

Commonly used medicines that may cause hearing loss include:
  • Aspirin, when large doses (8 to 12 pills a day) are taken.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • Certain antibiotics.
  • Loop diuretics. They're used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure.
  • Certain medicines used to treat cancer.

Is 70 percent hearing loss a disability? ›

Legal Definitions of Hearing Loss as a Disability

If you have hearing loss you qualify as disabled if have: An average air conduction hearing threshold of 90 decibels or more in the good ear. An average bone conduction hearing threshold of 60 decibels in the better ear.

What is the most common hearing abnormality of aging? ›

Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is the loss of hearing that gradually occurs in most of us as we grow older. It is one of the most common conditions affecting older and elderly adults.

What can you do to keep your hearing age lower? ›

Here are eight tips to help keep your ears as sharp as possible.
  1. Avoid Too Much Noise. How loud is too loud? ...
  2. Be a Quiet Enforcer. ...
  3. Limit Loud Sounds in Your Life. ...
  4. Wear Hearing Protection. ...
  5. Don't Smoke. ...
  6. Remove Earwax Properly. ...
  7. Check Medications for Hearing Risks. ...
  8. Have Your Hearing Tested.
Jun 9, 2021

How many Hertz should a 60 year old hear? ›

So by the time we hit middle-age, we can expect to hear up to around 14,000Hz. Age related hearing loss (or presbycusis) naturally develops as we age and our hearing can begin to deteriorate as a result of external factors, including the environment and existing medical conditions.

What is the most common cause of high-frequency hearing loss? ›

The leading cause of high frequency hearing loss is exposure to loud or excessive noise. Doctors cannot repair the damage to a person's hair cells, eardrums, or inner ear bones.

How many vibrations can humans hear per second? ›

The slowest vibration our human ears can hear is 20 times a second. That would be a very low sound. The fastest vibration we can hear is 20,000 times per second, which would be a very high sound. Animals can hear different frequencies from humans.

How many vibrations per second can the human ear hear? ›

Frequency is usually measured in cycles per second, or hertz. The human ear is most sensitive to and most easily detects frequencies of 1,000 to 4,000 hertz, but at least for normal young ears the entire audible range of sounds extends from about 20 to 20,000 hertz.

Which animal can hear sounds both higher and lower than human ear? ›

Several animal species are able to hear frequencies well beyond the human hearing range. Some dolphins and bats, for example, can hear frequencies over 100 kHz. Elephants can hear sounds at 14–16 Hz, while some whales can hear infrasonic sounds as low as 7 Hz.

Does ear size affect hearing in animals? ›

Animal hearing capabilities also depends on the placement, size and shape of their ears. For example, animals with large pinnas (the visible parts of the ear) such as bats and elephants are better equipped to detect vibrations since big pinnas are more effective at funneling vibrations to the eardrum.

Can animals with large ears hear better than animals with small ears? ›

Large ears increase air resistance, meaning that long-eared bats are forced to expend more energy than species with small ears. On the plus side, large ears generate more lift and provide better hearing.

What is scratching in my walls and ceiling at night? ›

If you tend to hear the scratching noises more frequently during the day, you're likely dealing with squirrels that have found a way into your walls. On the other hand, scratching noises at night tend to point towards mice or rats, both of which are nocturnal, unlike squirrels.

What is the difference between human hearing and animal hearing? ›

Humans generally have a hearing range of between 20 and 20,000 hz, which is actually very impressive. However, elephants can hear waves as low as 14 hz, while cats can hear up to 64,000 hz frequencies, and bats can sometimes pick up noises as high as 200,000 hz.

How good is human hearing compared to animals? ›

Cats and dogs can hear frequencies twice as high as humans (about 40,000 Hz). Mice hear in the ultrasonic range (up to about 80,000 Hz) but cannot really hear frequencies below 1,000 Hz, which are the frequencies important for human speech and music (look back to Figure 1 to see how much of the piano keyboard that is).

What sounds can animals hear that humans Cannot? ›

Many animals, including dogs, can hear frequencies in the ultrasonic range (above 20,000 Hz). Dog whistles used to train dogs have frequencies between about 23,000 Hz and 54,000 Hz so dogs (and many other animals) can hear them but humans cannot.

Does rat have good hearing? ›

Hearing. Rats have excellent hearing and can detect sound in the range 200Hz to 90,000Hz (Mice 100Hz to 90,000Hz). As a comparison, humans can hear in the range 20Hz to 20,000Hz. This demonstrates that rats not only have a greater range of hearing but can detect ultrasonic sound (20,000Hz and above).

How far can rats hear? ›

SpeciesApproximate Range (Hz)
guinea pig54-50,000
26 more rows

Are rats scared of human sounds? ›

Rats and rodents in general are very sensitive to sound, since it's one of their main tools for survival. Any new or unexpected noise will frighten them and send them scurrying.

Can rats hear human voices? ›

So, for example, from the human audiogram you can see that people hear pretty well at 1,000Hz; here, the threshold of hearing is a scant 2 decibels. For rats, however, the threshold is more like 24dB. That means that a 20dB sound at 1,000Hz would be easily audible to you but would be entirely inaudible to the rodent.

What sounds do rats hate? ›

Rats are very wary of new, loud, and unfamiliar sounds. Things like stomping your feet, clapping your hands, yelling, loud machinery, banging pots and pans, noisemakers, and sounds from cats and dogs will scare rats away and prevent them from causing further damage to your home.

What frequency annoys rats? ›

According to the producer, the most effective frequency range lies between 10 and 12 kHz for birds, between 20 and 30 kHz for rodents, and between 30 and 40 kHz for insects.

What sound attracts rats? ›

One such signal that has the potential to attract rats is prosocial 50 kHz calls. These calls were discovered by Panksepp and Burgdorf [18] when tickling laboratory rats, and have since been linked to positive emotions (affect) in this species [19].

What scares mice away? ›

Peppermint oil, cayenne pepper, pepper and cloves.

Mice are said to hate the smell of these. Lightly soak some cotton balls in oils from one or more of these foods and leave the cotton balls in places where you've had problems with mice.

What smells do rats not like? ›

Natural Mouse Repellent
  • Peppermint Oil. Peppermint oil is an effective method for keeping mice and rats away. ...
  • Cinnamon. Cinnamon is another scent that mice and rats hate. ...
  • Vinegar. The pungent smell of vinegar is also a natural way to repel mice and rats. ...
  • Citronella. ...
  • Ammonia. ...
  • Bleach. ...
  • Mothballs.
Sep 26, 2022

What sounds keep mice away? ›

Mice have very sensitive ears and can hear ultrasound of high-intensity wavelengths. They hate the sound of ultrasonic rodent repellent devices, which is usually in the range of 32 kHz to 62 kHz. The sound of these ultrasonic rodent repellers may it extremely irritating for these filthy creatures.

What keeps rats away naturally? ›

  • Onion slices (they hate the smell)
  • Essential oils (e.g. peppermint, citronella, and eucalyptus)
  • Owl's feather (they're scared of predators)
  • Human hair (they hate it)
  • Ammonia (they don't like the smell)
  • Steel wool (to block their holes)
  • Dried cat or snake litter (they're scared of predators)
Jul 22, 2021

Does bleach deter rats? ›

Yes, they do. Rats dislike the pungent smell of the bleach-like odour, just like us humans.

Will sleeping with lights on keep rats away? ›

Do lights keep rodents away? Unfortunately, the light inside your house is not a very effective deterrent to mice. Once inside a house or a building, they can easily look for dark areas to hide until such time as all lights are turned off.


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