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Home > Reptiles > Do Chameleons Have Ears? Can They Hear You?

Do Chameleons Have Ears? Can They Hear You?

Fischer's Chameleon-Unsplash

Chameleons are one of the most unique reptiles in the world. These tiny creatures are very popular with reptile lovers and make amazing pets for those looking for a scaly companion. Before bringing a chameleon into your home, learning as much as possible about them is a great start. One of the most popular questions potential owners find themselves asking is whether chameleons have ears and if they can hear them talk.

For those new to the world of chameleons, don’t expect to see ears on these reptiles. Chameleons may not have ears but never doubt that these little creatures can hear you very well. While chameleons may lack traditional ears, they make up for this fact by using other traits to hear what’s happening around them. Let’s learn how chameleons hear without ears and help those new to this unique reptile world understand these creatures better.new chameleon divider

Do Chameleons Have Openings for Hearing?

After realizing the chameleon doesn’t have ears, it’s understandable that you may be wondering if they have an orbital opening to help them hear. This reptile picks up the sounds around them by using a membrane and tiny holes located on the sides of their heads. While you may be trying to locate these tiny holes on a chameleon’s head, you won’t be able to. These holes are microscopic, meaning they are too small to see with the naked eye.

Without Ears, How Do Chameleons Hear?

close up of chameleon with mouth open
Image Credit: André Pretorius, Pixabay

Chameleons use a couple of different techniques to hear the sounds around them. They don’t have eardrums, but they do have cochleas. They aren’t the owners of traditional hearing methods and are considered mostly deaf, having the worst hearing of all reptiles, but chameleons make up for this issue by using their other traits to help them hear.

Chameleons don’t hear sound in the way we do, they feel it. Without all the proper aspects for hearing, they use their auditory papilla, membranes, and their quadratic bone to pick up vibrations to help them understand the things happening around them. A chameleon picks up frequencies between 200 to 600 Hertz. These tones are considered quite low. If you’re attempting to speak to your chameleon, a low register will be your best option for allowing them to know you’re trying to communicate with them.

How the Process Works

The quadratic bone is located in the center of a chameleon’s head. This bone is responsible for beginning the hearing process for these reptiles. This bone is surrounded by membranes. When a chameleon encounters a sound, these membranes vibrate. This is when signals are sent to the auditory papilla.

The auditory papilla is made up of tiny hair cells. In comparison to other lizards, chameleons possess far fewer of these cells which is why they have the worst hearing in the reptile family. Although they have fewer cells, the ones they have still function. When they receive signals from the vibrating membranes around the quadratic bone, they send the signals to the chameleon’s brain so the sounds can be interpreted.

Are Chameleons Sensitive to Sounds?

chameleon camouflage on a tree branch
Image Credit: ekamelev, Pixabay

The answer to this question is yes. Anything around your house that emits sound in the register they can interpret will affect your chameleon. Things like vacuum cleaners, music with heavy bass, and even humans with deeper voices may frighten your chameleon. Luckily for pet lovers, dogs and cats aren’t too much of an issue. Barking and meowing registers are too high for chameleons to hear. If your pet is near the chameleon’s habitat, however, they may frighten them from the vibrations the sound emits.

If a chameleon is surrounded by an abundance of low-frequency tones, it may become stressed. You must avoid this when bringing a chameleon into your home. While chameleons can hear somewhat, they aren’t designed to deal with tons of overstimulation caused by the sounds around them.

new chameleon divider

In Conclusion

Do chameleons have ears? No, they don’t. Can they hear you? Yes, they can. Understanding how your chameleon uses its other senses to hear the sounds around them will help you, as a current or potential chameleon owner, to communicate with your pet and avoid placing them in stressful situations. Always remember, ears aren’t needed to hear, especially when other senses are as finely tuned as those of the chameleon.

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Featured Image Credit: C. Brasseur (Unsplash)

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