Can Turtles Hear & Do They Have Sensitive Hearing (On Land & Underwater)

If you own a turtle, or you are interested in this species, you may have heard that they cannot hear very well, or even at all. While there is some truth to this, this is not necessarily the case. 

You may be surprised to learn that a turtle’s hearing is not as sensitive as it may seem. However, there are some limitations to their hearing in comparison to other types of animal.

In this article, we will be chatting you through everything you need to know about a turtle’s hearing, both on land, and underwater. We will be delving into whether their hearing is sensitive too. 

Can Turtles Hear On Land And Do Turtles Have Sensitive Hearing On Land?

To gain a better understanding of whether turtles can hear on land, it is useful to know how their hearing works in general. As you may have noticed, turtles don’t have ears like other creatures do. 

While a turtle does have internal ear bones, they do not have any external ear bones. Instead, they have flaps of skin covering the internal bones. This flap of skin is rather thin. Given that you cannot see their ears, this often leads people to believe that they cannot hear at all. 

However, even though you may not be able to see their ears, they are still capable of hearing. When you think about a turtle surviving on land, they need to be able to hear. If they cannot hear, they will not be able to keep themselves safe from predators.

Given that they have a flap of skin over the ear canal, instead of external ear bones, their hearing is a lot different to other animals. The way the external ear bones are typically shaped allows noises to enter the ear canal in the best possible way.

As a result, when you take away these ear bones, you are also taking away the ability to hear clearly.

When taking this into consideration, the way in which a turtle hears is different. Rather than hearing particular noises, they hear the vibrations of the sounds, rather than the frequency of them.

They are also sensitive to air displacement. So, if there is a predator near, they will be able to sense it using the vibrations of their movements, and the air displacement caused by the moments. 

While other animals will be able to hear the frequency of the noises, turtles do not experience this as much. Though, they can hear higher frequencies far better than lower frequencies. 

The flap of skin allows the turtle to hear, but they do not have the most sensitive hearing. While their hearing is not necessarily bad, it is equally not the best. Given this, their other senses are typically relied upon more.

While their hearing is not overly sensitive, and they will not be able to pick up on as much when they are on land in comparison to other animals, their hearing is still okay. When they are using more than one of their senses, this is when they are able to look for food, and protect themselves the best.

Can Turtles Hear Underwater And Do Turtles Have Sensitive Hearing Underwater?

When looking at sea turtles in particular, you may be wondering whether they have good hearing underwater. Sea turtles have a similar ear build as terrestrial turtles. This is why it is assumed that all turtles derived from water.

When looking at the flap of skin covering the ear canal, this protects the inner ear from the water. Their hearing is similar to terrestrial turtles, and they are able to hear frequencies in the water. However, they are more sensitive to lower frequencies in the water than higher ones. 

They rely a lot on vibrations. As the water carries these vibrations and frequencies well, they can actually hear better than terrestrial turtles. However, their hearing is still not overly sensitive on the whole, and they will rely on other senses while they are swimming to detect any danger.

What is great about their hearing, though, is that it allows them to note any water pressure changes. This is particularly useful when it comes to keeping themselves safe from predators. They can even detect subtle changes in the water pressure.

The only downside to a turtle’s hearing is that they do not have an ear drum or tympanum. This means that their hearing is limited in comparison to other animals. Even so, their hearing is not awful, even though it is limited.

As they do not have the strongest hearing capabilities, this does mean that they rely on other senses a lot more. In comparison to their hearing, their sight, touch, and taste are far better. These are the senses that a turtle both in water and on land will use the most. These senses are more heightened in comparison to their hearing. 

When looking at the frequency levels at which a turtle can hear, it typically ranges from around 100 Hz to 1000 Hz, but it does not get any higher or lower than this.

The majority of sea turtles can only hear from around 200 Hz to 750 Hz, which is not a great amount. Even so, this is enough for them to hear certain things, but it does mean that their hearing is not very sensitive.


We hope you have found this article useful and interesting. As you can see, turtles do not have a particularly sensitive sense of hearing. In fact, their hearing capabilities are a lot lower in comparison to other animals. 

Even so, they still can hear a reasonable amount, even though it is on a fairly small frequency. What is interesting about their hearing is that even though they do not have eardrums, they are still capable of noticing dips in the water or air pressure.

In addition to this, the vibrations allow them to hear any potential predators too.