What can you hear?

Every animal (including humans) has a specific range of frequencies that they can hear and are most sensitive to. Some sounds fall outside the audible range for humans, being either too low or too high pitched. Animals such as whales and elephants can hear and produce sounds below the human hearing range while dolphins and bats can detect and produce sounds above it. Not everyone can perceive the full spectrum of human hearing, as we can lose hearing due to exposure to loud sounds, physical damage to our ears, or aging. Let’s explore what we can hear!

The following activity will determine your hearing age!


Estimated time 

10 mins


  • Watch the Take the high-frequency hearing test with your class until the 2 minute mark
  • Have students identify the maximum frequency they can hear
  • Use the animal hearing poster to compare to the students’ hearing.

What’s happening?

As we age, our ability to hear higher frequencies, or higher pitched sounds diminishes gradually. This is a natural aspect of aging!

Wrap-up questions

  1. Which animals have a similar hearing range to the students?
  2. What animal vocalizations should students be able to hear, based on their result?
A figure comparing the hearing range of various animals including humans, which are 20 to 20,000 Hz.

Why is this important?

There’s a whole world of sound happening outside of our hearing range. Numerous species produce and perceive sounds that we can’t hear. As we study human-generated underwater noise, it’s important to consider the full range of frequencies we produce, as each species relies on a specific frequency range essential for survival.