Do Tortoises Have Ears

Do Tortoises Have Ears? Basic Anatomy and Biology

When looking at a tortoise the dominant feature you first see is the shell. However, you may have many questions about a tortoise’s body parts like does a tortoise have ears? When you first look at a tortoise you don’t see ears as you do with a dog for instance. So do they have ears or not?

Yes, tortoises have ears that are hidden from view. Totoroises ears are just behind the eyes and just above the jaw hidden behind a scale. The scale covers the internal ear as it goes straight to the eardrum. Science is split on how well a tortoise can hear with many believing tortoises have poor hearing. 

Ok, so tortoises have ears despite the fact we can’t actually see them but this may have you asking more questions I know I was. Below we take a look at some more questions about our tortoise’s ears. 

How To Find A Tortoise Ear?

Tortoises have ears but they are unlike our ears where we have an outer ear called the “pinna” that is visible. With all the eardrums that allow us to hear inside our skull.

Our tortoise ears are completely different as they don’t have an outer ear as we do. The ears are covered by scales or flaps. The tortoise ear is in an otic capsule which is a bony box surrounding the ear. There is then a flap covering the eardrum and internal components so they are not exposed. The tortoise is the only animal to have an otic capsule. 

To find where your tortoise’s ears are located look just behind the ears and just above the jawline. Look around this area for a dark spot on the skin this will be your tortoise’s ear. Well, not actually the ear but the flap or scale that covers their ears.

Please don’t poke around with your finger to find the ears. You can hurt or damage your tortoise’s ears by doing so.  

Are Tortoises Deaf?

A tortoise’s hearing is significantly different from our hearing but tortoises are not deaf. There are many studies on tortoise hearing and all have been inconclusive on the results. What is believed is tortoises are better at hearing low deep sounds than high-pitched ones.  

It is a misconception I see all the time that tortoises are deaf and I believe that this is down to how the ears appear or don’t. As you don’t see the ears I feel people just presume a tortoise is deaf. 

While many studies are inconclusive on the results on their hearing abilities I could not find one that said they were deaf. Just that they are unsure how well they can hear.   

So, this had me wondering if my tortoise could hear me so let’s have a look.

Can My Tortoise Hear Me?

Tortoise hearing is not great however that does not mean they can not hear us. They respond to some sound frequencies better than others. Low deep sounds are thought to be the best frequency to allow your tortoise to hear better. Wile a tortoise’s hearing may not be great the sight and smell are much better.

Taking like Barry White may be the best way to communicate with your tortoise. Give it a try I feel my tortoise seemed to respond better to me when I did.

A tortoise’s hearing may not be great but they have not survived in the wild for all this time without having some senses.

Tortoises have excellent sight and smell but they also sense vibrations excellently not forgetting an excellent intelligent level. 

The vibrations made on the ground go through the tortoise’s legs up into the shell and then into the ears. 

This super sense is what is believed to allow tortoises to escape predators in the wild along with their excellent smell and sigh. Vibrations also allow your tortoise to feel water running through the earth. Allowing a wild tortoise to more easily seek out water for drinking. 

Can Tortoises Get Ear Infection?

You would be forgiven for thinking that a tortoise can’t get ear infections however this is wrong.

A tortoise can get an ear infection, unfortunately. You can tell when a tortoise has an ear infection if you feel a lump on the side of its head. While it is rare it does happen and you should visit your vet for treatment. If it turns into an abscess only surgy is likely to fix it. 

While tortoise ear infections are rare they do happen and can be caused by our handling. Looking for your tortoise ears use your eyes and not your fingers as poking can cause the ear to become damaged. 


So there we have it tortoise do have ears despite what we may have thought when looking at them. The ears on your tortoise are just hidden from our view.

While it is a little unclear if our tortoise can hear us there is no doubt that our tortoise has some hearing capabilities. 

The debate on tortoise hearing will go on for years but as owners, we can also test the theories out ourselves. Taking in different pitches to see if our tortoise will respond better to different ones is something well worth trying. 

The tortoise does not use the hearing as much as they do their sight sense of smell or vibration in the ground. 

It is fascinating that a tortoise has ears and many people don’t know they do any wrongly believe they are deaf because they see no ears.