Rabbits have good hearing, and can pick up soundwaves in the ultrasonic range. Rabbits can detect noises of up to 49,000Hz, which is well beyond what humans can hear. Even dogs can only hear up to 45,000Hz.
The hearing range of rabbits is, on average, between 96Hz-49,000Hz, and these sounds can be detected from up to 1.8 miles away. Rabbits can even swivel their ears independently of each other to capture sounds from specific directions. In the wild, rabbits rely on their hearing more than any other sense to detect predators and threats.
The structure of rabbits’ ears is quite similar to humans, until you reach the outer shell. The outer ear acts as a catcher’s mitt for soundwaves, funneling them into the middle ear. These soundwaves vibrate the eardrum of the middle ear, which is translated by the delicate bones between the middle and inner ear. Inside, the basilar membrane converts these vibrations into the nerve signals, which the brain then translates into sound.
Do Rabbits Have a Good Sense of Hearing?
Rabbits are prey animals. Like many other evolutionary advantages, rabbits evolved their hearing under the stress applied by predators. In the wild, rabbits spend their lives listening out for minor sounds. These are often the first and only warning they have of a nearby threat.
House rabbits don’t need to be alert for such risks. However, your rabbit will still rely on its hearing to navigate the world and interact with you. Its hearing will tell it who you are and where you are in the home. It can also detect minor dangers, such as when something has fallen from a table or if another animal is nearby.
Rabbits have good hearing due to the internal and external structure of their ears. It’s also thanks to the sensitivity of these sensory organs. When coupled with a wide hearing range, rabbits have an amazing sense of the auditory world around them.
Rabbit Hearing Frequency Range
The Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology notes that rabbits can hear as low as 96Hz. This places rabbits’ hearing range at 96Hz-49,000Hz. To put this in perspective, the hearing range of humans is 20Hz-20,000Hz. We can hear lower frequencies, but rabbits are far more sensitive to higher frequencies and can hear a wider range of sounds than us.
Rabbits cannot hear all sounds within this range with equal clarity. The average rabbit will hear sounds between 1,000Hz-16,000Hz the best, with sounds outside of this window being heard with less clarity.
Do Rabbits Hear Better Than Humans?
Humans can hear frequencies lower than rabbits are able to. However, rabbits’ hearing can detect a broader range of frequencies, and hear higher frequencies. While rabbits won’t share our appreciation of quality music. However, in practical terms, rabbits do have better hearing than us.
The shape of the rabbit’s outer ear also gives it an advantage over humans. Our ears lay almost flat to our skulls, and the outer shell is very small compared to a rabbit’s.
The shape of a rabbits’ ears is also very important. That allows them to catch more soundwaves and direct them to the ear drum. The internal structure of a rabbits’ ears is also more sensitive, which enables them to hear higher frequencies than we can.
Can Rabbits Hear Better Than Dogs?
Rabbits and dogs have sound ranges that are quite similar. On average, dogs have a hearing range between 67Hz-45,000Hz. However, hearing sensitivity does vary between dog breeds.
Dogs can hear lower soundwaves, but rabbits can hear higher soundwaves. So, depending on what end of the sound spectrum you look at, rabbits either have better or worse hearing than dogs.
Rabbits can also hear sounds from further away than dogs. On average, dogs are able to detect sounds from a ¼ mile away. That’s far less than the average rabbit.
How Far Away Can Rabbits Hear?
Rabbits can hear sounds originating up to 1.8 miles away. Depending on the strength or pitch of the noise, this radius may change.
Low frequencies travel further than high frequencies. Very low sounds may travel from further away than 1.8 miles.
Can Rabbits Hear Ultrasonic?
Frequencies over 20,000Hz are classified as ultrasonic, which is well within a rabbit’s hearing range. This is important to remember if you use ultrasonic rodent repellents. Most repellent devices emit sounds between 30,000Hz-62,000Hz.
The sound emitted by these devices can distress rabbits, especially if they are placed close to where your rabbit lives. Over-exposure to such high-pitched sounds can cause pain, or even permanent damage to the inner ear.
The Structure of a Rabbit’s Ear
A rabbit’s ears are one of its defining features. These tall ears are designed for catching and funneling sound towards the inner ear. As a prey animal at the bottom of the food chain, these ears are vital to a rabbit’s survival.
The large, tall scoop that comprises the outer ear (or the pinna) acts as a net and a funnel. It catches the soundwaves and funnels them into the ear canal of the middle and inner ear.
Aside from lop-eared breeds, rabbits can rotate their ears 270-degrees to monitor and catch sounds coming from all directions. Rabbits can also move each ear independently of each other, much like how chameleons can move their eyes in different directions. As such, a rabbit can pinpoint the direction a sound is coming from quite accurately.
The ear canal carries the caught soundwaves to the ear drum of the middle ear. The ear drum is a membrane that the soundwaves hit. This process causes vibrations in the ear drum, which the delicate bones of the middle ear capture and transfer to the inner ear. The middle ear is an air-filled cavity, which prevents soundwaves from being dampened and lost in the fluid of the inner ear.
The third bone of the middle ear, the stapes, is attached to the spiral-shaped and fluid filled cochlea of the inner ear. Running alongside the cochlea is the basilar membrane. This membrane vibrates in different places, depending on the frequency of the soundwave.
The tiny hairs attached to the membrane respond to these vibrations, triggering nerve endings. These send signals to the auditory processing parts of the brain, which then interprets these signals as sound.
The inner ear translates vibrations that the middle ear captures from soundwaves caught by the outer ear. These are turned into electrical signals and sent to the brain. This is how rabbits hear sound.
Can Newborn Rabbits Hear?
Rabbit kits are born deaf, blind, and furless. Over the first few weeks of life, kits will slowly gain their senses of sight and sound, and grow fur. That is, unless the kit is born with a genetic defect that impacts its hearing.
Signs That a Rabbit Is Deaf
If you know the signs of rabbit deafness, you can take action. If caught early, you can even prevent your rabbit from going completely deaf.
A rabbit losing its hearing will not react to sound like it once did. Its ears won’t swivel towards the noise or respond to its name being called out.
However, if you have more than one rabbit, it may mimic the others responding to noise. Depending on how much hearing it has lost, it may only be able to hear certain frequencies. You can perform a number of sound tests by playing sound bites of different frequencies.
A deaf rabbit may also respond to you differently than before, such as with greater anxiety or aggression. For an animal that relies so heavily on its hearing, deafness can be a very stressful change to its life. Nonetheless, a rabbit can adapt to its new life without hearing.
Do Rabbits Rely On Their Other Senses?
A rabbit’s ears are fine-tuned structures designed for picking up even faint sound frequencies. The outer ear, which can swivel towards the direction of sounds, is designed to catch and funnel soundwaves towards the middle and inner ear. These sensory organs are extremely sensitive, and able to detect sounds from 96Hz-49,000Hz.
Rabbits may not be able to hear soundwaves as low as what humans and dogs can detect. However, they can hear a greater range of high frequencies. This includes ultrasonic soundwaves.