Hamster ears are some of the cutest ears. My Teddy has his folded when he wakes up, and he’s always listening for some thing or another.
But we need to know everything about our hamsters’ ears, hearing, and ear problems if we want to give them a happy life. So read on here to find out more, starting with the basics.
Do hamsters have good hearing ?
Yes, hamsters have very good hearing. Hearing is actually one of the main ways hamsters navigate their habitat, and avoid predators.
Hamsters rely on smell to ‘see’ their environment (smells, pheromones), and on hearing to listen for potential predators or other sounds of danger.
That being said, a hamster won’t react to sudden sounds as badly as sudden movements. A sudden movement will scare the hamster, while a sudden noise will be investigated and learned.
How wild hamsters use their hearing to survive
In the wild hamsters are hunted by almost every creature possible. As such, they’ve had to develop very good survival skills.
Hamsters sleep for much of the day, when most of their predators are out and hunting. Once evening sets in, hammies wake up, and perk their ears up. Listening for a fox’s paws, a swooping owl, a slithering snake, anything that could be dangerous.
If he hears nothing out of the ordinary, he’ll come out. Once he’s out of his labyrinth of tunnels and burrows, the hammy will start foraging for food, and will cover lots his territory.
He’ll literally stop to check every few minutes, to make sure there’s nothing chasing him, or to smell for another food source.
Hearing is the hamster’s first line of defense, since he can hear before he can smell a predator. Even a very quiet and sneaky cat won’t be able to fool a hamster too easily.
This trait has been passed down to your pet hamster too. He’ll be very curious about sounds and will have the instinct to listen for absolutely anything odd.
Your hammy will learn every sound in the house
A pet hamster is still very much like a wild hamster. Aside from variations in the colors, pet hamsters have largely the same personalities they had as wild hamsters.
Granted, hammies haven’t been pets for more than a century now. You can find out more about how hammies cam to be pets, and where they (all) come from, right here.
For example my Teddy (a Syrian male, golden) used to stop and listen for everything when he was young. Seriously, he’d stop every few minutes and learn each new sound. We have an air freshener that goes off on auto, that was mind-blowing for him.
Or when it rained the first few times, and he had to figure out if it’s water dropping from the sky or something terrifying.
Over time he calmed down and learned every sound in the house, and those usually around the house as well. Our neighbors, a door closing somewhere, someone speaking outside, a dog barking, and so on.
As they age, hamsters become more accustomed to all the sounds and smells of their home. This makes them more comfortable, but it depends on your hamster’s personality just how soon he’ll stop panicking.
My Teddy took almost a year to relax, and not stare at me when I open the fridge.
Your hamster’s ears can change colors as they age
Depending on which type of hamster you have, your hammy’s ears might change colors a bit. The ears, but the fur as well.
Then, if you’ve got a Syrian hamster know that the ears might turn a dark grey as the hamster turns into an adult. For example my Teddy is a golden Syrian hamster, the soft/blended variety. So no stark lines or patches of color.
When he was a baby he was all cream, and had a bit of white on his belly and paws. Once he started coming close to the 3 month mark (when hamsters become adults) he started getting all of his markings.
Which included darker, grey ears, and a few grey markings on his forehead, and shoulders. And the tips of most of the hairs turned dark grey, like he’s a bit smoky.
So it could be that your Syrian might develop grey ears too, or a darker color all over his fur if he’s got the gene.
This can apply to all hamster breeds, since they only become adults around the 3 month mark. This is where they reach their ‘final form’, so to speak, and won’t change very much. Only when they become old, will there be any other changes.
For example my Teddy is a year and a half at the time I’m writing this article. His snout’s got a bit whiter, and the fluff around his ears got whiter as well. He’s not very old yet, but he’s getting there.
Hamster’s don’t live long, Syrians can reach a maximum of 3 years, the same way us humans reach past 100 years.
Folded hamster ears
Ears are an important part of your hamster’s body language. Knowing what your hamster’s ears are saying is about as important as knowing what a dog’s ears are saying.
So for example hammies can have their ears folded, in several situations. If he just woke up, his ears will be folded, and you will notice he moves slowly, eyes half open, fur a bit ruffled. No one looks great in the morning.
It could be that your hamster’s folded ears mean fear, when he’s also shying away from you or another hamster, and making himself appear to be very small (curling in on himself).
This fear can be dangerous, depending on the hamster. Some hamsters flee, some fight. Those who fight get their folded ears mistaken for a sign of aggression.
Your hammy could also suddenly perk his ears up, even stand up, to better figure out what’s happening. If there’s an odd sound, he’ll listen for it. He can get the most intense face when he’s focused, I swear.
Generally a hamster’s ears are up, but relaxed. They don’t move as much as a dog or cat’s ears, but they’re still very much mobile and can pick up a lot of sound.
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Hamsters can develop several ear problems
Since hearing is an important part of a hamster’s defense, his ears are usually clean. The hammy is a very clean animal, in fact, and he can clean his own ears just fine.
He has to, in order to be able to use them properly. But sometimes, infections happen, or a parasite, or even an injury.
Make sure you isolate the sick hamster from the other hamsters, since most of these conditions are contagious.
Whatever the case, sometimes you will have to help your little friend. Here’s why and how.
An ear infection can come about in many ways, even if the cage is clean. You can tell your hamster has an infected ear by the fact that it’s possibly become red, swollen, hot to the touch, and your hamster might be scratching at it.
He might carry his head to the side/tilted, and you might actually see some discharge. If you think this is the case, don’t panic. An ear infection is bad, but treatable. It does require you to reach a veterinarian, though.
The best vet to ask for help is an ”exotic” vet, since they have experience with rodents. The vet will prescribe a round of antibiotics for your hammy.
He might keep your friend for a couple of days, or he might give you the medicine to administer at home. It depends on the vet and how bad the infection is.
Ear tumors can grow in older hamsters, and will require surgery. The tumors usually grow very fast, and will send you to the vet a few times in the same week.
If you think your hamster’s got a suspicious growth, keep an eye on it for the next 48 hours. Take pictures of it every few hours, to compare the growth.
Know that tumors can be both under and on the skin, so you might have to pick up the hammy and feel him.
I’ve heard of hamsters getting tumors removed and survived, but this isn’t something that happens every day. Still, I found at least one example of a Dwarf type that needed a surgery for an ear tumor, and survived.
I’ll link you to the vet’s site, and be warned that there’s a few pictures from before and after the surgery. No worries, the hamster is safe and he made a full recovery. Many thanks to the veterinarian for showing us that it’s possible to help the hamster.
This can be tricky to tell with black hamsters, or those with very dark ears. Ear mites are a type of tiny parasites That settle in the hamster’s ears, and they’re black.
They look like tiny black dots moving in and around your hamster’s ears. Your hamster is probably scratching himself furiously. The mites can extend to the hamster’s face and paws, even some parts of his fur.
Bring the hamster to the vet immediately, so he can give your friend the proper treatment. The treatment can extend over a few weeks, but your hamster will be fine.
Ear wax and/or discharge
Excessive ear wax can be caused by a possible infection, or can lead to one. Hamsters usually don’t have a lot of ear wax, so if your friend suddenly has a build-up, it should be checked.
A discharge from the ears can also be a sign of an infection, one that’s actually ruptured. This is a case you should bring your hamster to the veterinarian for a treatment.
Loss of fur around ears
Fur loss can be caused by excessive scratching, and if your hamster’s got an infection or mites, his ear will itch.
Excessive scratching can lead to more than just ear loss, it can develop an even worse problem. So make sure you speak to your vet, to possibly get a treatment for your hamster.
Another reason for fur loss, but not necessarily around the ear, can be ringworm. Which is a fungal infection that gives the hamster bald spots, with dry itchy skin. This too can be treats by a veterinarian.
A word from Teddy
I hope you found out how to take care of our ears here. I know us hammies look like the most adorable creatures, but we do get sick sometimes, and we need your help.
If you want to know more about us hamsters, be sure to check the articles below, so you get all the info you need to help us have a great life with you.