Do Chameleons Have Ears? (& Can They Hear You)

Published Categorized as Chameleons
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At first glance, it doesn’t seem like Chameleons have ears. So, does that mean that all Chameleons are deaf? The answer might surprise you.

In this article, we’ll give you the low-down about Chameleons, their hearing, and whether they have ears or not.

In addition, we’ll discuss how Chameleons hear and how they use their other senses to survive in the wild and in captivity. 

Do Chameleons Have Ears?

The short answer is no. Chameleons do not have ears. It sounds odd that a living creature wouldn’t have ears, but Chameleons are much more unique than that.

For instance, they have two tiny holes on the side of their head, where the ears would typically be. There’s also a third tiny hole in between their eyes.

However, unless you have a microscope handy, you won’t be able to see these small holes.

Regardless, these small holes are what allow your Chameleon to hear and feel vibrations of sound.

In other words, Chameleons don’t have ears, but they can hear. But how is that possible?

Veiled Chameleon's head and eye
Veiled Chameleon’s head

How Can Chameleons Hear Without Ears?

It’s difficult for Chameleons to hear well because they lack an outer ear and an eardrum. Also, their cochlea, which carries sound within the inner ear, is small.

In fact, Chameleons can only hear sounds between 200 and 600 Hertz. It looks like a lot, but that’s relatively low. In other words, these lizards are nearly deaf.

So, how do Chameleons hear? For instance, they can still “hear” in a way, but they mostly feel sounds rather than listen to them. So, they feel the vibrations of the sound waves.

All of this is done through the quadrate bone and the auditory papilla.

What Is A Quadrate Bone, And How Does It Work?

The quadrate bone is a square-like bone inside the skull of many reptiles, including Chameleons. This bone is believed to be connected to the middle ear.

Chameleons have this bone in their skull, which is surrounded by membranes. When sound meets the membranes, the membranes send a vibration to the quadrate bone.

The quadrate bone will accept sounds between 200 and 600 Hertz, thus sending them to the auditory papilla.

In addition, the auditory papilla consists of tiny hair cells. When sounds and vibrations pass these hair cells, signals are sent to the brain. Thus, allowing your Chameleon to hear.

What Sounds Can They Actually Hear?

Remember, Chameleons can only hear between 200 and 600 Hertz. So it sounds like a lot, but it’s actually not.

For instance, a human is sensitive to sound. Therefore, we can hear noises between 20 Hertz and 20,000 Hertz.

In other words, Chameleons can only hear low tones. So, they’ll hear the vacuum going on in your living room, but they won’t hear you speak to them in the same room if you have a high-pitched voice. 

How Do Chameleons Communicate With Each Other?

Chameleons can communicate in a few different ways. The first is using body language and their skin color.

For instance, Chameleons can change their skin color to blend in with their surroundings, but it also shows their mood.

Chameleons change their skin color to communicate with you and with other Chameleons. For example, they’ll change to a dark color when they feel threatened or aggressive. This is to show others not to get near.

On the other hand, Chameleons will change to a lighter color when they feel content or excited.

In addition to changing their skin color, Chameleons can communicate by making low noises, such as growling.

Chameleons are territorial and will growl at others to show aggression and mean business.

Growling is low enough for Chameleons to hear, which is why they choose to growl when they need to warn off other Chameleons. 

Can Chameleons Hear You?

Your Chameleon won’t be able to hear you all the time, but they can hear you.

For instance, if you want to talk to your Chameleon, be sure to talk in a low tone of voice. Speaking too high or too soft will go unnoticed. 

Also, the normal speaking range of a human is about 500 Hertz, which is within the 200 to 600 Hertz range that Chameleons can hear.

In other words, your Chameleon will be able to hear some of the words you say, but not all of the words.

If you whisper or shout at your Chameleon, they won’t hear you at all. So speak usually or speak low, and you’ll have the best shot of your Chameleon hearing you.

Do Noisy Environments Bother Chameleons?

Chameleons aren’t too sensitive to sounds since they can’t hear a lot. So, can they get scared or stressed by certain sounds or busy environments?

Believe it or not, they can get bothered by noisy environments.

For example, if something heavy falls to the floor, your Chameleon won’t hear it because it’ll be too loud. However, they’ll be able to feel the vibrations from the loud thud.

Large vibrations may feel like an earthquake to them. But, if your Chameleons can’t identify the sound, where it came from, or its purpose, they could get scared because they don’t know what’s coming next.

Another example is other animals in the home. For instance, if you have a dog that’s barking next to your Chameleon’s cage, they won’t be able to hear it at all. It’ll be too loud for your lizard.

However, the vibrations from the bark will be big since the dog is barking so close. Thus, your Chameleon will feel the vibration. Depending on how much the vibration is, your Chameleons may be scared of your dog.

In addition, if you listen to your music loud, your Chameleon may or may not hear it. For example, if there are low bass tones, they’ll hear it. However, if you have a high-pitched sound on, your Chameleon most likely won’t hear a thing. 

How Do Chameleons Cope Without Ears?

As with any other creature, Chameleons adapt well without having ears. In fact, they don’t know what it’s like to have ears, so they rely on their other senses to survive and protect themselves.

First, Chameleons rely on what they can feel. As we’ve already discussed, Chameleons hear based on the types of vibrations they can feel. They can hear low frequencies, but the vibrations will help them know when something or someone is near.

For example, Chameleons are used to sleeping in pitch black in the wild. So, they can’t hear or see predators coming. But, depending on what predator is approaching, the Chameleons can feel the type of vibration. Thus, they can get themselves out of the area and to safety. 

On the other hand, Chameleons have protruding eyes that can see all the way around. In addition, they can control both eyes separately. So, a Chameleon can look at two different things at once.

This means during the day, Chameleons can easily keep an eye on their surroundings with their eyesight before they even feel a vibration from a predator oncoming. 

Unfortunately, Chameleons don’t have a strong sense of smell. So, while they can smell, they won’t necessarily smell prey or predators coming close to them. 

Conclusion

Overall, Chameleons don’t have ears as we do, but they do have a way of hearing. They utilize their other senses to survive in the wild and thrive in captivity.

If you want to make sure that your Chameleon isn’t overstimulated by sound and can hear you speaking to it, then be sure to keep sounds to a minimum and use low tones. 

Learn more about Chameleons here. You can also click here to learn whether Chameleons have teeth and here for what they need to survive.

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Jason Williamson

By Jason Williamson

Jason is a huge animal lover with many pets of his own. He loves sharing all his knowledge of all creatures here and learning more whenever he can.