Do Crested Geckos Hear and How Sensitive Do They Hear?

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

A lot of us have indoor hobbies or interests that create a loud or high-frequency sound. You might not have problems with these sounds, but your gecko might have. So the question is if and what crested geckos can hear.

Crested geckos don’t have external ears but are capable of hearing. They’re sensitive to sudden and loud sounds but won’t have any problem with most (everyday) sounds. When exposed to a lot of loud or sudden sounds, this can hurt the health of your crested gecko.

Lizards and geckos are sensitive to sound, but there’s more to it. To know what sensitivity to sound means, you need to know what sound is, what crested geckos can hear and what sounds can be dangerous for your gecko.

A little heads up, some crested geckos will get used to loud noises, but this will vary for each individual. If you want to have a healthy crestie, you’ll need to be compassionate and not play loud sounds all the time near your little lizard.

In this article, I’ll be exploring the crested gecko ear and its hearing capabilities. You’ll learn about sound and the frequencies that your crested gecko can possibly hear. You’ll also learn what sounds can lead to stress and health issues and should be avoided.

Introduction to Sound

To give you a basic understanding of sound, you’ll need some information on the consisting parts of sounds. These parts are:

  • the frequency (pitch): sound frequency determines if a sound is high or low and is measured in hertz (Hz). A high-frequency sound is a sound of 2000 Hz (or 2kHz). A low-frequency sound is a sound of 500 Hz or lower.
  • the intensity (loudness): sound intensity determines if a sound is loud or soft and is measured in decibels (dB). A high-intensity sound is a loud sound, while a low-intensity sound is considered a soft sound.

Crested Gecko Hearing

The crested gecko ear

Unlike humans and a lot of mammals, crested geckos don’t have external ears. However, crested geckos do have ears, but they’re inside their body, so-called inner ears. Although crested geckos don’t have external ears, you can quickly notice the inner ear in the tiny holes you see on their head.

The inner ears have a normal structure and include:

  • cochlea: this part of the inner ear is involved in the actual hearing.
  • stapes: the stapes or stirrup is a bone in the middle ear involved in the conduction of sound vibrations to the inner ear.
  • tympanic membrane: this membrane is also called the eardrum and is a thin layer of tissue that receives the sound vibrations from outside and transmits them to the auditory ossicles.

So, although crested geckos don’t have an external ear, they are capable of hearing.

Does temperature change sound sensitivity?

The ears of crested geckos are responsive to changes in temperature. It’s being noticed that the ears are more sensitive at higher temperatures. This means that a sound in a certain frequency will need to be louder to be noticed by a crested gecko if the temperature is higher.[1]Campbell, H. W. (1969). The Effects of Temperature on the Auditory Sensitivity of Lizards. Physiological Zoology, 42(2), 183–210. http://www.jstor.org/stable/30158472

What sounds do crested geckos hear?

Hearing range

There is research showing that geckos have great sound sensitivity compared to other reptiles. Lizards are thought to be capable of hearing sounds between 100 Hz and 5kHz, with some geckos even hearing up to 10kHz.[2]Brittan-Powell, E. F., Christensen-Dalsgaard, J., Tang, Y., Carr, C., & Dooling, R. J. (2010). The auditory brainstem response in two lizard species. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of … Continue reading So, crested geckos don’t hear low-frequency sounds (or only barely) but can hear high-frequency sounds like birds’ chirping. In comparison, humans have a hearing range between 20 Hz and 20kHz.[3]Purves D, Augustine GJ, Fitzpatrick D, et al., editors. Neuroscience. 2nd edition. Sunderland (MA): Sinauer Associates; 2001. The Audible Spectrum. Available from: … Continue reading

Some sound examples (500Hz, 1000Hz, and 5kHz):

500 Hz
1000 Hz
5khz

Can crested geckos hear human speech?

Now, let’s explore this a little bit further for us as crested gecko owners.

Human speech is usually in the low-frequency range:

  • a typical male voice has a range between 85 and 180 Hz
  • a typical female voice has a range between 165 and 255 Hz

Compared with geckos’ hearing range, this would suggest that a crested gecko won’t hear you speak in a normal voice. There are however people that have noticed that their gecko does respond when spoken to. It might be caused by vibrations being detected, but this is a little bit of unexplored territory. For example, snakes can detect airborne and groundborne vibrations with their body and inner ears.[4]Young, B. A. (2003). Snake Bioacoustics: Toward a Richer Understanding of the Behavioral Ecology of Snakes. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 78(3), 303–325. https://doi.org/10.1086/377052

How Do Crested Geckos Use Sounds?

Sound plays a significant role in the life of humans because we’re a communicative species. Crested geckos are a more solitary species that will live most of their lives alone and will come together to breed. They don’t need sound that much for communication, but they need to be aware of the danger and will need to locate insects.

Your crested gecko will use sounds to:

  • communicate with other crested geckos
  • fend of predators
  • locate insects and other prey in their vicinity
  • be aware of dangerous situations, like the sounds of a bird of prey

It’s important to understand that crested geckos will use their hearing skills in combination with their vision.

Sounds or Vibrations?

It’s been suggested that geckos are very good at detecting vibrations in the air or on surfaces, just like snakes. Since sound is a vibration, this can cause crested geckos to “hear” certain sounds.

For example, opening the cage doors will cause vibrations that crested geckos can pick up through the air. It would also be possible that crested geckos can detect the vibrations through the branches where a crested gecko sits on. However, more research is needed to determine how geckos pick up these vibrations.

Sensitivity to Everyday Sounds

Safe sounds

Your crested gecko will spend a lot of time in its vivarium, which is a barrier against certain sounds. I already mentioned that crested geckos have a different hearing range and cannot hear low-frequency sounds.

Most crested geckos won’t have a problem with everyday sounds that aren’t too loud or happen all of a sudden.

To give you an idea of safe sounds in your home, here’s a non-exhaustive list:

  • dishwasher
  • vacuum cleaner
  • washing machine
  • television
  • music
  • door closing

It’s possible that your crested gecko won’t be happy with these sounds in the beginning. They are, however, sounds that a gecko can get used to. When your crestie is comfortable in its vivarium, they might sleep through all these sounds and won’t even come and take a look.

Sounds to avoid

As I already mentioned, crested geckos can tolerate everyday sounds well. There are however some noises you want to avoid because they can cause your gecko to be stressed:

  • sudden noises: just like humans, crested geckos can get startled when a sudden noise is made in the vicinity of their vivarium.
  • (very) loud noises: loud noises, like a thunderstorm, can also startle and stress your crestie.

Possible consequences of stressful sounds

When your crested gecko is stressed, this can lead to health issues, like lack of eating or, in severe cases, tail loss. When you’re keeping multiple crested geckos near each other, a single stressed gecko can cause a domino effect, causing stress for geckos in their vicinity.

Want to Learn More?

If you want to learn more about crested geckos as pets, please read the following articles.

If you’re interested in getting crested geckos as pets you should definitely read our article about baby and juvenile crested gecko care or (adult) crested gecko care.

References

References
1 Campbell, H. W. (1969). The Effects of Temperature on the Auditory Sensitivity of Lizards. Physiological Zoology, 42(2), 183–210. http://www.jstor.org/stable/30158472
2 Brittan-Powell, E. F., Christensen-Dalsgaard, J., Tang, Y., Carr, C., & Dooling, R. J. (2010). The auditory brainstem response in two lizard species. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America128(2), 787–794. https://doi.org/10.1121/1.3458813
3 Purves D, Augustine GJ, Fitzpatrick D, et al., editors. Neuroscience. 2nd edition. Sunderland (MA): Sinauer Associates; 2001. The Audible Spectrum. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK10924/
4 Young, B. A. (2003). Snake Bioacoustics: Toward a Richer Understanding of the Behavioral Ecology of Snakes. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 78(3), 303–325. https://doi.org/10.1086/377052

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