Do Snakes Have Ears? Can They Hear Us?

While explaining why snake prevention is important, wildlife professionals often get asked about the particulars of different snakes. A common question during this time is, how do snakes hear us? Do they have ears?

And fair enough, we think that’s an important one to know because if you’re going to come face to face with a serpent on your property, it’s useful to know how it works, to best protect yourself. Although, if you discover a snake in your vicinity, we recommend that you keep your distance, and keep your children and pets away, as well. While many snakes are actually non-aggressive, they will attack if they feel threatened or cornered.

So, do snakes have ears?

Snakes strike us as unusual, with their limbless bodies that slither so gracefully through the grass, and their unusual body shape. While most nuisance wild animals resemble human bodies to an extent (in the sense of having a head, ears, torso, legs, etc.), snakes throw us for quite a loop.

As you no doubt know, snakes do not actually have an external ear structure. However, bear in mind that’s only one of three parts that the ear is actually composed of. Let’s talk a bit about the ear.

The ear (for us and for snakes, as well) is made up of three major parts:

  • The external ear, which is in charge of capturing and focusing external sounds and sending them to the eardrum, which is essentially a separating wall between the external ear and the middle ear;
  • The middle ear, which is in charge of taking those noises transmitted through the eardrum, and transforming them into vibrations. The three bones inside the middle ear then transmit these vibrations to the inner ear;
  • The inner ear, lastly, is used to turn these vibrations into delicate nerve impulses, which are then transmitted to the brain.
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Basically, the ear structure works as a translator, because it takes external noise, and processes it into a language (aka nerve impulses) that your brain can process and respond to accordingly. 


Of course, one type of snake will hear better than others, but basically, snakes lack both the external and the middle part of the ear (though they do have one of the three bones that help transport vibrations into the inner ear). 

Snakes do, however, have a complete inner ear, which is connected to the snake’s jaw by that delicate middle ear bone we mentioned earlier. Snakes, as we all know, crawl on the ground, and that gives them a unique advantage over other animals – it keeps them connected to the earth. 

Basically, snakes will feel vibrations in the ground with their jaw, which is usually close to the ground. This will then transmit the vibrations, through the middle ear bone, into the inner ear. The inner ear then translates the vibrations from the earth into nerve impulses, which get transmitted to the brain and allow the snake to act accordingly. This is how snakes are able to “hear” predators, and protect themselves against them.

However, because they lack the external and middle part of the ear (mostly), snakes aren’t very good with airborne sounds. For example, if you speak, and tell a snake to go away (or try to scare it through loud noises), it’s unlikely you’ll get much of a reaction. That’s because the ear part that would capture external noises is missing from the snake’s anatomy. On the other hand, if you tried to scare a snake by banging a chair on the ground, for example, or by stomping your feet, it would “hear” this, as it would cause vibrations directly in the ground.

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Caution: We do not recommend ever attempting to scare a snake, regardless if it’s venomous or not. Such gestures can be interpreted as overly aggressive, and cause the snake to attack you.

If dealing with a snake infestation, by far the best thing to do is to contact A+ Animal Solutions and get an expert to take care of the problem. Snakes are dangerous, and should not be interacted with directly. A wildlife removal professional has the necessary experience, knowledge, and protective gear to handle snakes safely and effectively. Don’t put yourself at risk needlessly.

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