Do Whales Have Ears


Do Whales Have Ears

Whales are social animals and have a variety of ways of communicating with each other. Let us find out if they have ears.

Whales do have ears. But, even though they have external auditory canals, their functionality is questionable, just as it is in the case of all cetaceans. It is believed that whales have an especially designed sound system that helps them hear sound underwater. As such, they can easily hear sounds underwater and also communicate with ease.

There are a lot of questions people ask about whales and how their hearing is developed. Allow us to answer some of the most commonly asked questions.

Image Credits: “Breaching Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)” by Gregory ‘Slobirdr’ Smith is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Do whales have external ears?

Whales are essentially mammals with features very similar to other mammals. Let us find out if they have external ears.

Whales have external ears, like all cetaceans. However, they need a wax plug in their external ears that can help the sound travel from water to the internal ear. This wax plug is mostly present in baleen whales. This also means that baleen whales can only hear sound underwater.

On the other hand, most scientists believe toothed whales hear through the help of their bone tissues. However, others believe that they have ear channels that can help transmit sound.

Do humpback whales have ears?

Wondering whether humpback whales have ears? Allow us to tell you all the details about this mammal.

Humpback whales have ears that allow them to listen to any sound underwater. Like most mammals, they have a bone structure consisting of inner and middle ears. However, this bone structure is slightly different from terrestrial mammals to accommodate hearing in the water. 

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We must mention here that the whale ear is just a tiny opening that might be difficult to locate as it closes underwater. 

Do killer whales have ears?

Image Credits: “Killer Whale (Resident Orca)” by Shawn McCready is marked with CC BY-ND 2.0.

Killer whales are ferocious animals and apex predators. But do they also have ears? Let us find out.

Killer whales have ears. In fact, their sense of hearing is quite well-developed. However, their bone structure is slightly different. The bone complex of killer whales is not attached to their skull. As such, the bone complex is held together by ligaments in a cavity that is located outside the skull.

Having a separate ear bone complex helps the killer whales to locate the direction from which the sound is coming, which is tremendously useful for them.

Do beluga whales have ears?

Image Credits: “Beluga Whale” by Mike Johnston is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Beluga whales have a unique appearance that makes them stand out among other whale species. Let us find out if they have ears.

Beluga whales have small ear openings as well, which are located just a couple of inches behind their eyes. The two ear openings are connected to the ear canals and eardrums. Scientists differ as to how beluga whales receive sound. While some believe it is through these small openings, others believe that these openings are not functional.

Whatever be the case, belugas have an excellent sense of hearing. However, not much is known about the morphology of their inner ear.

Do pilot whales have ears?

Image Credits: “Pilot whales” by ahisgett is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Pilot whales are also known as blackfish and are characterized by their distinct appearance. Allow us to tell you whether these creatures have ears.

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Although pilot whales can hear underwater, they do not have functional external ears. On the other hand, like most cetaceans, they lack external pinnae but are toothed whales meaning they have external ear openings, but scientists remain divided as to whether these openings are functional. As such, they use their bone tissues and air sinuses to hear and detect sounds.

Do blue whales have ears?

Image Credits: “Blue Whale” by D-Stanley is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Blue whales are touted to be the largest sea animals. Let us find out if they have ears like other whale species.

Blue whales have no external ears. However, their hearing is said to be quite well-developed, and it is believed that they make use of bones and air sinuses to detect sound. In toothed whales, we can find a narrow ear canal that is covered or capped by dense wax. In the case of baleen whales, there is a narrow ear canal, but their functionality is questionable.

To communicate, whales make use of rumblings of low frequency. Most whales have a very well-developed hearing sense.

How do whales receive sound?

Curious to know how whales manage to receive sound? Let us tell you all about it.

Although dolphins and whales have ears and can hear sounds, their ears do not protrude outwards like those of other mammals. As such, they are equipped with special structures located in the jawbones that allow sound to reach them underwater. Some whales also make use of air sinuses and bone tissues to receive sound.

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That being said, the mechanisms used to communicate or receive sounds differ from one cetacean to another. Even whales differ in terms of how they receive sound.

Do whales listen to sound?

Whales are intriguing animals with a curious listening pattern. Let us learn more about how they listen to sound.

Whales listen to sound, just like all other mammals. However, unlike other mammals, they do not have a very well-developed sound system. By this, we mean they don’t have fully functioning external ears that humans do. Instead, they rely on a carefully devised internal sound system and their bone tissues to hear sound. 

Although it is an intriguing process, it allows sound to transmit seamlessly. As such, whales can easily communicate even underwater.


An interesting aspect about whales is that they are essentially social creatures who move around in groups called “pods”. Besides, they need to be careful of their surroundings and be on the lookout for potential predators. In all these cases, it is best to have a clear communication channel and be able to hear sound clearly, especially underwater. Therefore, the use of bone tissues and air sinuses to hear sound is an excellent mechanism and makes life easier for whales. They also communicate nonverbally by flapping their fins and tails loudly.

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