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Hearing range

hearing range, hearing range crossword clue
Hearing range describes the range of frequencies that can be heard by humans or other animals, though it can also refer to the range of levels The human range is commonly given as 20 to 20,000 Hz, though there is considerable variation between individuals, especially at high frequencies, and a gradual loss of sensitivity to higher frequencies with age is considered normal Sensitivity also varies with frequency, as shown by equal-loudness contours Routine investigation for hearing loss usually involves an audiogram which shows threshold levels relative to a normal

Several animal species are able to hear frequencies well beyond the human hearing range Some dolphins and bats, for example, can hear frequencies up to 100,000 Hz Elephants can hear sounds at 14–16 Hz, while some whales can hear infrasonic sounds as low as 7 Hz in water


  • 1 Measurement
  • 2 In animals
    • 21 Humans
    • 22 Other primates
    • 23 Cats
    • 24 Dogs
    • 25 Bats
    • 26 Mice
    • 27 Birds
    • 28 Fish
  • 3 In marine mammals
  • 4 See also
  • 5 Notes
  • 6 References
  • 7 Works cited


Main article: Absolute threshold of hearing

A basic measure of hearing is afforded by an audiogram: a graph of the minimum discernible sound level at various frequencies throughout an organism's nominal hearing range1

Behavioural hearing tests or physiological tests can be used to find hearing thresholds of humans and other animals For humans, the test involves tones being presented at specific frequencies pitch and intensities loudness When the subject hears the sound, he or she indicates it by raising a hand or pressing a button The lowest intensity they can hear is recorded

The test varies for children; their response to the sound can be indicated by a turn of the head or using a toy The child learns what to do upon hearing the sound, such as placing a toy man in a boat A similar technique can be used when testing animals, where food is used as a reward for responding to the sound

Physiological tests do not need the patient to consciously respond2

The information on different mammals hearing was obtained primarily by behavioural hearing tests

Frequency is measured in hertz Hz, the number of sound pressure level vibrations sonic waves per second

In animalsedit

Logarithmic chart of the hearing ranges of some animals 3


See also: Auditory system

In humans, sound waves funnel into the ear via the external ear canal and reach the eardrum tympanic membrane The compression and rarefaction of these waves set this thin membrane in motion, causing sympathetic vibration through the middle ear bones the ossicles: malleus, incus and stapes, the basilar fluid in the cochlea, and the hairs within it, called stereocilia These hairs line the cochlea from base to apex, and the part stimulated and the intensity of stimulation gives an indication of the nature of the sound Information gathered from the hair cells is sent via the auditory nerve for processing in the brain

The commonly stated range of human hearing is 20 Hz to 20 kHz67note 1 Under ideal laboratory conditions, humans can hear sound as low as 12 Hz8 and as high as 28 kHz, though the threshold increases sharply at 15 kHz in adults, corresponding to the last auditory channel of the cochlea9 Humans are most sensitive to ie able to discern at lowest intensity frequencies between 2,000 and 5,000 Hz10 Individual hearing range varies according to the general condition of a human's ears and nervous system The range shrinks during life,4 usually beginning at around age of eight with the upper frequency limit being reduced Women typically experience a lesser degree of hearing loss than men, with a later onset Men have approximately 5 to 10 dB greater loss in the upper frequencies by age 401112

An audiogram showing typical hearing variation from a standarized norm

Audiograms of human hearing are produced using an audiometer, which presents different frequencies to the subject, usually over calibrated headphones, at specified levels The levels are weighted with frequency relative to a standard graph known as the minimum audibility curve, which is intended to represent "normal" hearing The threshold of hearing is set at around 0 phon on the equal-loudness contours ie 20 micropascals, approximately the quietest sound a young healthy human can detect,13 but is standardised in an ANSI standard to 1 kHz14 Standards using different reference levels, give rise to differences in audiograms The ASA-1951 standard, for example, used a level of 165 dB SPL sound pressure level at 1 kHz, whereas the later ANSI-1969/ISO-1963 standard uses 65 dB SPL, with a 10 dB correction applied for older people

Other primatesedit

Several primates, especially small ones, can hear frequencies far into the infrasonic field Defined at 60 decibels, the hearing range for the Senegal bushbaby is 92 Hz–65 kHz, and 67 Hz–58 kHz for the Ring-tailed lemur Of 19 primates tested, Macaca fuscata had the widest range, 28 Hz–345 kHz, compared to 31 Hz–176 kHz for humans15


Cats have excellent hearing and can detect an extremely broad range of frequencies They can hear higher-pitched sounds than humans or most dogs, detecting frequencies from 55 Hz up to 79 kHz1617 Cats do not use this ability to hear ultrasound for communication but it is probably important in hunting,18 since many species of rodents make ultrasonic calls19 Cat hearing is also extremely sensitive and is among the best of any mammal,16 being most acute in the range of 500 Hz to 32 kHz20 This sensitivity is further enhanced by the cat's large movable outer ears their pinnae, which both amplify sounds and help a cat sense the direction from which a noise is coming18


The hearing ability of a dog is dependent on breed and age, though the range of hearing is usually around 67 Hz to 45 kHz2122 As with humans, some dog breeds' hearing ranges narrow with age,23 such as the German shepherd and miniature poodle When dogs hear a sound, they will move their ears towards it in order to maximise reception In order to achieve this, the ears of a dog are controlled by at least 18 muscles, which allow the ears to tilt and rotate The ear's shape also allows the sound to be heard more accurately Many breeds often have upright and curved ears, which direct and amplify sounds

As dogs hear higher frequency sounds than humans, they have a different acoustic perception of the world23 Sounds that seem loud to humans often emit high frequency tones that can scare away dogs Whistles which emit ultrasonic sound, called dog whistles, are used in dog training, as a dog will respond much better to such levels In the wild, dogs use their hearing capabilities to hunt and locate food Domestic breeds are often used to guard property due to their increased hearing ability22 So-called "Nelson" dog whistles generate sounds at frequencies higher than those audible to humans but well within the range of a dog's hearing


Bats have evolved very sensitive hearing to cope with their nocturnal activity Their hearing range varies by species; at the lowest it can be 1 kHz for some species and for other species the highest reaches up to 200 kHz Bats that can detect 200 kHz cannot hear very well below 10 kHz24 In any case, the most sensitive range of bat hearing is narrower: about 15 kHz to 90 kHz24

Bats navigate around objects and locate their prey using echolocation A bat will produce a very loud, short sound and assess the echo when it bounces back Bats hunt flying insects; these insects return a faint echo of the bat's call The type of insect and how big it is can be determined by the quality of the echo and time it takes for the echo to rebound; there are two types; constant frequency CF, and frequency modulated FM calls that descend in pitch25 Each type reveals different information; CF is used to detect an object, and FM is used to assess its distance FM and CF are two different types of echo which inform the bat on the size and distance of the prey The pulses of sound produced by the bat last only a few thousandths of a second; silences between the calls give time to listen for the information coming back in the form of an echo Evidence suggests that bats use the change in pitch of sound produced via the Doppler effect to assess their flight speed in relation to objects around them26 The information regarding size, shape and texture is built up to form a picture of their surroundings and the location of their prey Using these factors a bat can successfully track change in movements and therefore hunt down their prey


Mice have large ears in comparison to their bodies They hear higher frequencies than humans; their frequency range is 1 kHz to 70 kHz They do not hear the lower frequencies that humans can; they communicate using high frequency noises some of which are inaudible by humans The distress call of a young mouse can be produced at 40 kHz The mice use their ability to produce sounds out of predators' frequency ranges: they can alert other mice of danger without also alerting the predator to their presence The squeaks that humans can hear are lower in frequency and are used by the mouse to make longer distance calls, as low frequency sounds can travel farther than high frequency sounds27


Hearing is birds' second most important sense and their ears are funnel-shaped to focus sound The ears are located slightly behind and below the eyes, and they are covered with soft feathers – the auriculars – for protection The shape of a bird's head can also affect its hearing, such as owls, whose facial discs help direct sound toward their ears

The hearing range of birds is most sensitive between 1 kHz and 4 kHz, but their full range is roughly similar to human hearing, with higher or lower limits depending on the bird species28 "Birds are especially sensitive to pitch, tone and rhythm changes and use those variations to recognize other individual birds, even in a noisy flock Birds also use different sounds, songs and calls in different situations, and recognizing the different noises is essential to determine if a call is warning of a predator, advertising a territorial claim or offering to share food"29

"Some birds, most notably oilbirds, also use echolocation, just as bats do These birds live in caves and use their rapid chirps and clicks to navigate through dark caves where even sensitive vision may not be useful enough"29


Fish have a narrow hearing range compared to most mammals Goldfish and catfish do possess a Weberian apparatus and has a wider hearing range than the tuna

In marine mammalsedit

As aquatic environments have very different physical properties than land environments, there are differences in how marine mammals hear compared to land mammals The differences in auditory systems have led to extensive research on aquatic mammals, specifically on dolphins

The auditory system of a land mammal typically works via the transfer of sound waves through the ear canals Ear canals in seals, sea lions, and walruses are similar to those of land mammals and may function the same way In whales and dolphins, it is not entirely clear how sound is propagated to the ear, but some studies strongly suggest that sound is channeled to the ear by tissues in the area of the lower jaw One group of whales, the Odontocetes toothed whales, use echolocation to determine the position of objects such as prey The toothed whales are also unusual in that the ears are separated from the skull and placed well apart, which assists them with localizing sounds, an important element for echolocation


Studies30 have found there to be two different types of cochlea in the dolphin population Type I has been found in the Amazon river dolphin and harbour porpoises These types of dolphin use extremely high frequency signals for echolocation Harbour porpoise emits sounds at two bands, one at 2 kHz and one above 110 kHz The cochlea in these dolphins is specialised to accommodate extreme high frequency sounds and is extremely narrow at the base of the cochlea

Type II cochlea are found primarily in offshore and open water species of whales, such as the bottlenose dolphin The sounds produced by bottlenose dolphins are lower in frequency and range typically between 75 and 150,000 Hz The higher frequencies in this range are also used for echolocation and the lower frequencies are commonly associated with social interaction as the signals travel much farther distances

Marine mammals use vocalisations in many different ways Dolphins communicate via clicks and whistles, and whales use low frequency moans or pulse signals Each signal varies in terms of frequency and different signals are used to communicate different aspects In dolphins, echolocation is used in order to detect and characterize objects and whistles are used in sociable herds as identification and communication devices

See alsoedit

  • Hearing sense
  • Audiology
  • Audiometry
  • The Mosquito
  • Seismic communication
  • Minimum audibility curve


  1. ^ which corresponds to sound waves in air at 20°C with wavelengths of 17 meters to 17 cm 56 ft to 07 inch


  1. ^ Marler, Peter 2004 Nature's Music: The Science of Birdsong Academic Press Inc p 207 ISBN 978-0124730700 
  2. ^ Katz, Jack 2002 Handbook of Clinical Audiology 5th ed Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins ISBN 9780683307658 
  3. ^
    • RR Fay 1988 Hearing in Vertebrates: a Psychophysics Databook Hill-Fay Associates, Winnetka IL
    • D Warfield 1973 The study of hearing in animals In: W Gay, ed, Methods of Animal Experimentation, IV Academic Press, London, pp 43-143
    • RR Fay and AN Popper, eds 1994 Comparative Hearing: Mammals Springer Handbook of Auditory Research Series Springer-Verlag, NY
    • CD West 1985 The relationship of the spiral turns of the cochela and the length of the basilar membrane to the range of audible frequencies in ground dwelling mammals Journal of the Acoustic Society of America 77:1091-1101
    • EA Lipman and JR Grassi 1942 Comparative auditory sensitivity of man and dog Amer J Psychol 55:84-89
    • HE Heffner 1983 Hearing in large and small dogs: Absolute thresholds and size of the tympanic membrane Behav Neurosci 97:310-318
  4. ^ a b Rodriguez Valiente A, Trinidad A, Garcia Berrocal JR, Gorriz C, Ramirez Camacho R April 2014 "Review: Extended high-frequency 9–20 kHz audiometry reference thresholds in healthy subjects" Int J Audiol 53 8: 531–545 PMID 24749665 doi:103109/149920272014893375 CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list link
  5. ^ Educationcom 23 May 2013 "Sonic Science: The High-Frequency Hearing Test" Scientific American Retrieved 25 May 2017 
  6. ^ Rosen, Stuart 2011 Signals and Systems for Speech and Hearing 2nd ed BRILL p 163 For auditory signals and human listeners, the accepted range is 20Hz to 20kHz, the limits of human hearing 
  7. ^ Rossing, Thomas 2007 Springer Handbook of Acoustics Springer pp 747, 748 ISBN 978-0387304465 
  8. ^ Olson, Harry F 1967 Music, Physics and Engineering Dover Publications p 249 ISBN 0-486-21769-8 Under very favorable conditions most individuals can obtain tonal characteristics as low as 12 cycles 
  9. ^ Ashihara, Kaoru 2007-09-01 "Hearing thresholds for pure tones above 16kHz" The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 122 3: EL52–EL57 ISSN 0001-4966 doi:101121/12761883 The absolute threshold usually starts to increase sharply when the signal frequency exceeds about 15 kHz The present results show that some humans can perceive tones up to at least 28 kHz when their level exceeds about 100 dB SPL 
  10. ^ Gelfand, Stanley 2011 Essentials of Audiology Thieme p 87 ISBN 1604061553 hearing is most sensitive ie, the least amount of intensity is needed to reach threshold in the 2000 to 5000 Hz range 
  11. ^ Dittmar, Tim 2011 Audio Engineering 101: A Beginner's Guide to Music Production Taylor & Francis p 17 ISBN 9780240819150 
  12. ^ Moller, Aage R 2006 Hearing: Anatomy, Physiology, and Disorders of the Auditory System 2 ed Academic Press p 217 ISBN 9780080463841 
  13. ^ Gelfand, S A, 1990 Hearing: An introduction to psychological and physiological acoustics 2nd edition New York and Basel: Marcel Dekker, Inc
  14. ^ Sataloff, Robert Thayer; Sataloff, Joseph February 17, 1993 Hearing loss 3rd ed Dekker ISBN 9780824790417 
  15. ^ Rickye S Heffner, 2004, Primate Hearing From a Mammalian Perspective; https://wwwutoledoedu/al/psychology/pdfs/comphearaudio/primate_hearing_from_a_mammalian_perspectivepdf
  16. ^ a b Heffner, Rickye S November 2004 "Primate Hearing from a Mammalian Perspective" PDF The Anatomical Record Part A: Discoveries in Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary Biology 281 1: 1111–1122 PMID 15472899 doi:101002/ara20117 Archived from the original PDF on 2006-09-19 Retrieved 20 August 2009 
  17. ^ Heffner, Henry E May 1998 "Auditory Awareness" Applied Animal Behaviour Science 57 3–4: 259–268 doi:101016/S0168-15919800101-4 
  18. ^ a b Sunquist, Melvin E; Sunquist, Fiona 2002 Wild Cats of the World University of Chicago Press p 10 ISBN 0-226-77999-8 
  19. ^ Blumberg, M S 1992 "Rodent ultrasonic short calls: locomotion, biomechanics, and communication" Journal of Comparative Psychology 106 4: 360–365 PMID 1451418 doi:101037/0735-70361064360 
  20. ^ Heffner, Rickye S 1985 "Hearing Range of the Domestic Cat" PDF Hearing Research 19: 85–88 PMID 4066516 doi:101016/0378-59558590100-5 Retrieved 20 August 2009 
  21. ^ "Frequency Hearing Ranges in Dogs and Other Species" wwwlsuedu Retrieved 2016-12-28 
  22. ^ a b Condon, Timothy 2003 Elert, Glenn, ed "Frequency Range of Dog Hearing" The Physics Factbook Retrieved 2008-10-22 
  23. ^ a b Hungerford, Laura "Dog Hearing" NEWTON, Ask a Scientist University of Nebraska Retrieved 2008-10-22 
  24. ^ a b Adams, Rick A; Pedersen, Scott C 2000 Ontogeny, Functional Ecology, and Evolution of Bats Cambridge University Press pp 139–140 ISBN 0521626323 
  25. ^ Bennu, Devorah A N 2001-10-10 "The Night is Alive With the Sound of Echoes" Archived from the original on 2007-09-21 Retrieved 2012-02-04 
  26. ^ Richardson, Phil "The Secret Life of Bats" Archived from the original on 2011-06-08 Retrieved 2012-02-04 
  27. ^ Lawlor, Monika "A Home For A Mouse" Society & Animals 8 Archived from the original on 2012-10-13 Retrieved 2012-02-04 
  28. ^ Beason, C, Robert "What Can Birds Hear" USDA National Wildlife Research Center - Staff Publications Retrieved 2013-05-02 
  29. ^ a b Mayntz, Melissa "Bird Senses – How Birds Use Their 5 Senses" Birding / Wild Birds Aboutcom Retrieved 2012-02-04 
  30. ^ Ketten, D R; Wartzok, D Thomas, J; Kastelein, R, eds "Three-Dimensional Reconstructions of the Dolphin Ear" PDF Sensory Abilities of Cetaceans: Field and Laboratory Evidence Plenum Press 196: 81–105 doi:101007/978-1-4899-0858-2_6 Archived from the original PDF on 2010-07-30 

Works citededit

  • D'Ambrose, Chris 2003 "Frequency Range of Human Hearing" The Physics Factbook Retrieved 2007-02-28 
  • Hoelzel, A Rus, ed 2002 Marine Mammal Biology: An Evolutionary Approach Oxford: Blackwell Science ISBN 9780632052325 
  • Ketten, D R 2000 "Cetacean Ears" In Au, W L; Popper, Arthur N; Fay, Richard R Hearing by Whales and Dolphins New York: Springer pp 43–108 ISBN 9780387949062 
  • Richardson, W John 1998 Marine mammals and noise London: Academic Press 
  • Rubel, Edwin W; Popper, Arthur N; Fay, Richard R 1998 Development of the auditory system New York: Springer ISBN 9780387949840 

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