Neanderthals and Homo sapiens had similar auditory and speech capacities

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The study of audition in fossil hominins is of great interest given its relationship with intraspecific vocal communication. While the auditory capacities have been studied in early hominins and in the Middle Pleistocene Sima de los Huesos hominins, less is known about the hearing abilities of the Neanderthals. Here, we provide a detailed approach to their auditory capacities. Relying on computerized tomography scans and a comprehensive model from the field of auditory bioengineering, we have established sound power transmission through the outer and middle ear and calculated the occupied bandwidth in Neanderthals. The occupied bandwidth is directly related to the efficiency of the vocal communication system of a species. Our results show that the occupied bandwidth of Neanderthals was greater than the Sima de los Huesos hominins and similar to extant humans, implying that Neanderthals evolved the auditory capacities to support a vocal communication system as efficient as modern human speech.