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Can Snakes Hear Music?

No, snakes cannot hear music. Snakes can sense sounds, but they do not have the outer ear that would allow them to hear.

Although snakes have ears, they do not have ear flaps. Their ears are nothing more than small holes. They do not have an eardrum, and their ears are filled with air instead of liquid.

dancing cobra


Image: Cobras can be ‘charmed’ by playing music to them, but it’s actually not the music that maintains the cobra’s attention.

Snake charmers who play music to snakes are playing a trick. It’s the movement of the instrument that attracts the snake as much as anything.

Can Snakes Hear you Talk?

No, snakes cannot hear you talk.

They do not have external ears, but they have what is called quadrate bone. This bone is located in their jaws. The bone moves as a response to vibrations on the ground. It helps the snake understand its surroundings while slithering on the ground.

The quadrate bones are responsible for moving their jaws as they swallow their prey. However, scientists also know that these bones are responsible for processing vibrations.

A study concluded that pythons and possibly all snakes have an acute sensitivity to vibration. Because snakes have no outer ear, eardrum, and the necessary fluid to process sounds, the scientists had two theories that they had to test.

These theories are:

  • They are sensitive to sound pressure
  • They are sensitive to vibrations but cannot hear a sound as animals and humans do

The scientists used a system to measure vibrations in 11 pythons using audiograms. The conclusion of the study indicates that do not have an effective way to process the pressure of sound. Therefore, they cannot hear sound.

However, they have an acute sensitivity to vibrations. It is what they use to communicate and detect prey and predators around them.

can snakes hear music

Are Snakes Sensitive to Sound?

Snakes are sensitive to sound vibrations in the ground but they cannot hear like humans can. Despite their inability to hear, they have inner ears. While humans can hear sounds between 500 and 1,000 hertz, snakes can ‘hear’ between 40 and 2,000.

Many popular pieces of literature say that snakes are deaf. This claim is not technically accurate. Snakes cannot hear sounds, but they can process vibrations.

This sensitivity to sound is what allows them to hunt for prey. The ears do not just “hear” the vibration, but the snake can also detect where the vibration is coming from.

The ears are so sensitive that they could detect movement in the sand. In a study, scientists were able to prove that a snake can sense a simple disturbance on the sand. When a prey moves in the sand, the movement creates a vibration that ripples through the surface.

This vibration is similar to what happens in the water if one disturbs it. However, vibration on the sand happens much quicker. By estimate, the vibration travels at around 50 meters per second.

Because of the snake’s acute sense of vibration, it can detect the epicentre of this vibration. Then, it starts to move to hunt for the prey. If the snake is a pit viper, it is aided by its heat sensory organ to detect the prey at close range.

Can Snakes hear Whistles?

No, snakes cannot hear whistles and human speech. But if this whistle is loud enough so as to vibrate, the snake would feel it.

It took scientists many years to study whether or not snakes could hear noises that do not reach the ground. Recent studies show that the quadrate bones of snakes enable them to process airborne vibrations, too.

The initial thought of scientists was that the snakes could hear because of their spinal nerves. The theory was that the spinal nerves process the vibration from their skin, and this, in turn, is what causes the quadrat bones to vibrate.

Experts referred to this theory as somatic hearing. Today, scientists affirm that the quadrate bones do not rely on the skin and spinal nerves to process sound vibrations.

Once the quadrate bones detect vibration, the signal goes through the inner ear. From here, the signal goes to the brain, which processes the information. The snake interprets this vibration as sound.

How Does Snake Charming Work?

Snake charmers would have people believe that the sound they make is what causes the snake to behave and move. Quite the contrary, the sound that the snake charmer creates has nothing to do with it.

Snake charmers move a musical device called a pungi. Typically, they use cobras to enact their shows. As the music charmer produces music with the pungi, the cobra rises and moves.

The cobra cannot hear the sound. Instead, it focuses its attention on the pungi, which the cobra sees as a threat. As the snake charmer moves, the cobra assesses it and moves along with it.

Snake charmers use cobras because cobras are aggressive, and they attack other snakes. It is the reason why the snake charmer does not use other snakes like pythons who wouldn’t react to the pungi.

Snake charming has been around since ancient Egypt. The practice extended to other nations and is still popular today in India. There are also snake charmers who hurt the snakes by removing their fangs. As such, the snakes could not deliver venom.

Snake charming is a cruel practice that has to be banned in most parts of the world. The snake charmers trap the snakes from their natural habitat, and then they remove the teeth without any kind of painkillers. They just yank out the teeth.

After that, they sew the snake’s mouth shut. They only leave a small gap to pour milk or water into the snake’s mouth. The snake charmers also pierce the venom duct of the snake with a hot needle. They drain the venom from this piercing.

Eventually, the snake is going to die. They cannot eat, and they are in excruciating pain. The snake charmer uses the snake to earn money until the snake dies.

Summary

Snakes cannot hear a sound like many animals and humans do. They have what is called the quadrate bone, and it is this bone that “hears” and processes the vibration. Snakes are capable of sensing airborne and ground vibrations.

Snake charmers do not make snakes dance through music. The snakes see the musical instrument, the pungi, as a threat. It is the reason the cobra moves. The cobra is also the preferred species because it is aggressive and will react to the presence of a threat.

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