Dogster is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

How Powerful Is a Dog’s Hearing Compared to Humans? Facts & FAQs

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on May 9, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog owner with his pet german shepherd

How Powerful Is a Dog’s Hearing Compared to Humans? Facts & FAQs

Dogs have incredibly impressive senses, and we typically associate dogs with their amazing sense of smell. But how well do they hear?

While dogs hear some sounds better than humans, humans can hear other sounds better than dogs.

Here, we take a deep dive into how well dogs hear compared to us, how their ears work, and why they seem to sense things before they happen.


How Does a Dog’s Hearing Compare to a Human’s?

Dogs are better at hearing high-frequency and quieter sounds than we are, but we’re better at hearing low-frequency sounds than dogs.

High Frequency

beger picard dog near sea side
Image Credit: Wirestock Creators, Shutterstock

Frequency is most typically measured in Hertz (Hz). Deep, bassy sounds have low frequencies. High-pitched sounds like birds chirping and children laughing and squealing are high-frequency sounds.

Decibels (dB) measure the sound’s pressure, which is essentially the volume of the sound, also called the amplitude wave.

Dogs can hear high-frequency sounds that go as high as 45,000 Hz, while we can only hear up to 20,000 Hz. So, dogs can hear high-pitched sounds that we can’t hear at all. This is how dog whistles work (which range from 23,000 to 54,000 Hz).

For example, a dogs can pick up the sound of mice squeaking in a field while you wouldn’t. This also helps explain why you might see your dog reacting to something that you can’t see or hear.

Low Frequency

hokkaido dog smiling with tongue
Image Credit: Happy monkey, Shutterstock

However, we hear lower frequencies better than dogs. We can generally hear down to about 20 Hz, while dogs can only hear as low as about 67 Hz.

Sounds 20 Hz and lower are infrasonic sounds, which dogs definitely can’t hear, but they can probably feel it. This can be things like a volcano erupting or the sound of a bass guitar in music.

Dogs are capable of hearing a low-frequency sound if the volume is loud enough (high amplitude wave).

Comparison Chart

As well as dogs can hear, there are other animals that hear even better. This comparison chart puts everything into perspective.

Animal Hz
Porpoise 150,000
Beluga Whale 123,000
Bat 110,000
Mouse 91,000
Cat 64,000
Dog 45,000
Rabbit 42,000
Cow 35,000
Horse 33,500
Sheep 30,000
Human 23,000
Elephant 12,000
Owl 12,000
Goldfish 3,000
Chicken 2,000
Tuna 1,100

How Do Dogs’ Ears Work?

Doberman sitting on the grass
Image Credit: PxHere

An important part of a dog’s hearing starts with the pinna, the outer part of the ear that you see. Whether your dog’s ears are long and floppy or short and perky, the pinna acts like a satellite dish.

Their ears are shaped to catch sound waves, which are transmitted into the ear canal and vibrate the eardrum. From here, tiny bones in the inner ear magnify the sound.

Dogs’ ears are also larger than our own, so they have the advantage of having a much better pinna than humans.

Dogs can move their ears independently of each other as they have more than 18 muscles that control the ears. They can turn, raise, lower, and tilt their ears to pick up a sound and where it’s coming from, and their ears also express how they are feeling.

Why Do Dogs Have Such Great Hearing?

Hunting dogs in vests
Image Credit: Rionegro, Shutterstock

Dogs have a predatory heritage that makes hearing prey essential to their survival. Wolves are the ancestors of modern dogs, and their common prey include small rodents like rats and mice. Their survival depends on being able to hear high-pitched squeaks so they can locate their next meal. Interestingly, the reason humans aren’t so finely tuned to high-pitched sounds is that our ears evolved specifically to hear the pitch of the human voice.

Some people have thought that dogs have a “sixth sense” because they seem to detect events like earthquakes before they happen or bark at something in your home that isn’t visible. But it’s a dog’s hearing that keeps them on high alert for every unusual noise.

Since we know that dogs can hear sounds that we can’t, they can pick up something outside that we aren’t aware of.

That said, there’s no question that dogs are perceptive. Their hearing is excellent and so are their other five senses. The combination of their powerful senses of smell and hearing can help explain the “sixth sense” reactions that dogs seem to have.


Hearing Problems in Dogs

attentive vet massaging the dog's ear
Image By: YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV, Shutterstock

Just like us, dogs can develop hearing problems, particularly as they age. Signs that a dog has trouble hearing include not responding to sounds or their name being called and not always being woken up by a loud noise.

Some breeds are prone to hearing loss and might have congenital disabilities. Other causes include:

  • Inflammation of the middle or outer ear
  • Degenerative nerve issues in senior dogs
  • Cancers or tumors that affect the nerves in the ear
  • Poor development of the parts of the ear with nerve receptors
  • Infectious and inflammatory diseases
  • Certain antibiotics, antiseptics, and other medications
  • Heavy metals like mercury or lead
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Genetics or dogs with white coats
  • Chronic inflammation of any part of the ears

Treatment is tricky because the damage is irreversible for many of these causes. In some cases, surgery might be necessary, and there are hearing aids available for some dogs.

Even if your dog’s hearing fails, you can use body language and teach your dog hand signals as a way to communicate. Some dogs will also still be able to hear a dog whistle, which is another potential method of communication.


Final Thoughts

Humans are better at hearing low-frequency sounds and locating sounds, while dogs are best with high-frequency sounds. They are also better than us at hearing quiet sounds. That said, dogs don’t have the best hearing in the animal kingdom. A cat’s ear has about 30 muscles (compared to the roughly 18 muscles in a dog’s ear), and they can hear up to 48,000 to 85,000 Hz (compared to the 45,000 Hz with dogs). Moths can hear up to 300,000 Hz!

We hope that this helps explain why your dog seems to know things will happen before they do. Those sensitive ears can pick up all kinds of information!

See Also:

Featured Image Credit: nori_jaafer, Pixabay

Get Dogster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.
Dogster Editors Choice Badge
Shopping Cart


© Pangolia Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.