How To Tell If Your Dog Is Losing Its Hearing

As dogs age, they face a higher risk of losing their hearing abilities. That’s why you may have noticed your pal becoming less responsive to your calls and having trouble communicating with you. 

Therefore, it’s your responsibility to pick up on the alarming deafness symptoms early on as a well-aware dog owner. This way, you can diagnose your dog’s condition and take steps accordingly. 

It’s important to note that deaf dogs can live a healthy life as long as their human parents cater to their specific needs. 

In this guide, we will discuss some symptoms of hearing loss in dogs that will let you help your little friend promptly. Plus, we will also tell you about the possible interventions to ensure dog hearing protection. 

So let’s get started!

Types of Hearing Loss In Dogs

Deafness in dogs could be of two types: congenital and acquired. 

  • Congenital: In this case, the dog is born deaf either due to an inherited defect or exposure to toxins at the time of birth. It could also result from the poor development of the inner ear canal or other apparatus involved in the auditory function. 
  • Acquired: Dogs with acquired hearing loss are born with functioning ears but develop deafness over time. Several factors can induce this type of deafness, including infection, age, trauma, long-term inflammation, or excessive ear wax. 

In both cases, the mechanism of deafness may differ depending on the inner ear. 

A dog on a cliff edge.

To understand this, let’s have a look at the three major categories of hearing loss in dogs. 

  • Conductive Hearing Loss: This condition occurs when the sound is hindered in your dog’s external and middle ear. 
  • Sensorineural Hearing Loss: It takes place when your dog’s cochlea has some issues. Plus, it can also impede your dog’s neural pathway to the auditory cortex.
  • Mixed Hearing Loss:  This condition is linked to both conductive and sensorineural loss. 

Causes of Deafness In Dogs 

In congenital cases, the leading cause of deafness is an incomplete development of the ear canal or an inherited genetic defect. 

Certain breeds are prone to congenital deafness, such as those with merle coats and whiteheads. 

Acquired deafness may be due to different reasons, with age being the most common. Other causes include inflammation, blockage of the auditory canal, wax buildup, internal or external ear infection, inflammation in the ear, tumors, drug toxicity, and exposure to heavy metals. 

Some people might wonder: can ear mites cause deafness in dogs? No, they don’t directly lead to hearing loss. 

However, if you don’t treat them promptly, they can worsen the condition, resulting in complete deafness.

Symptoms of Hearing Loss In Dogs 

Several symptoms can tell you whether your dog has senile deafness or a hearing loss caused due to an infection

So, you should watch out for the symptoms below to diagnose your dog’s deafness before it gets too late.  

Little or No Response to Sound 

A common symptom of your dog’s hearing loss is its inability to listen to your commands. 

In the early stages of deafness, it becomes unable to hear high-pitched sounds, such as you calling its name from a distance or blowing a whistle. 

A simple at-home dog deafness test is to make different sounds, like clapping or whistling, while your pet is looking the other way. If they don’t respond or show any sign of being addressed, they’re probably losing their hearing. 

Increased Barking

When you talk to someone who has headphones on, they tend to speak louder because they can’t hear themselves. So without this sensation, they cannot determine how loud they need to talk to make you listen to them. 

It’s the same with deaf dogs. Since they can’t receive auditory cues from the environment, they tend to bark as an alternative method of communication. 

In simple words, your dog believes that you can’t hear him just because it can’t listen to you. So, it will bark louder to get the message across. 

Heightened Reflexes 

When dogs lose their hearing ability, they rely on other senses, such as touch or smell. Due to this sensory shift, your dog is likely to become more receptive to different stimuli. 

Thus, they’d get startled or surprised much easily. For example, a footstep or a sharp smell from the kitchen will make your dog’s ears stand. 

You should notice these symptoms most prominently when they’re asleep. If they wake up with a shock at the slightest vibrations or touch, they’re likely losing their hearing. 

Passiveness  

Like some humans, dogs also resort to sleeping more to deal with a sudden change in their lives. Additionally, they will also become passive towards you and may start avoiding social interaction. 

At first, it might seem like they are unhappy. However, it’s more of a precautionary measure at your pet’s end – to stay away. 

Some pet parents also ask: can hearing loss in dogs cause anxiety? Yes, it can. Besides being more vocal (barking more), your dog may also become more anxious. 

Moreover, if you show frustration due to their changed behavior, their anxiety can potentially increase. 

If you notice these changes, talk to your vet to learn about dog hearing protection and possible help to ensure its healthy life.

What Dog Breeds Are More Prone to Deafness?

Although all dogs fall prey to deafness at an old age, some breeds still have a higher susceptibility. 

To date, more than 30 breeds of dogs have reported being more prone to deafness. These include: 

  • West Highland white terrier 
  • Dalmatian 
  • Jack Russell terrier 
  • Cocker spaniel
  • Maltese
  • Australian shepherd
  • German shepherd
  • Boston terrier 
  • Miniature poodle

Some dog breeds, including Otto Bulldog, Norweigian Dunker Hound, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Ibizan Hound, and Italian Greyhound, among a hundred others, have a higher risk of developing congenital deafness.

As discussed before, this deafness in dogs could be due to infections or exposure to toxins. In addition, some dogs also have a hereditary tendency to deafness. 

What To Do If Your Dog Is Losing Hearing?

If you see signs of deafness in your dog, keep your cool and talk to your vet about it. Deafness is almost inevitable in older dogs, so there’s no need to panic. 

Instead, talk to other pet parents who might be going through the same stage with their dogs. They might give you some tips on how to adapt yourself to this change in your dog’s life.

Moreover, when you take your friend out for a walk, keep an eye out for them since they can’t look out for themselves as effectively as they used to. 

With a bit of contribution and cooperation from your side, your buddy will have a healthy life ahead. 

However, if you still see your efforts going in vain, rush to your vet to get the best treatment.

Treatment of Hearing Loss in Dogs

Usually, the treatment for deafness in dogs differs depending on the factors that caused it. 

A dog on a beach with a frisbee in it's mouth.

That’s why your vet will first run some tests to diagnose the cause of deafness and then recommend the most suitable treatment for your dog. 

Some common treatments include:

  • Hearing Aids: Fortunately, hearing aids and cochlear implants have become readily available these days. However, they can be heavy on your pocket and are not preferred by most vets.
  • Ear Cleaning: If your dog’s deafness is caused due to any foreign object like wax or overgrown ear hair, it can be treated by cleaning the ear thoroughly. 
  • Infection Treatment: Your vet may suggest you some antibiotics, ear flushing, ear drops, and anti-inflammatory drugs if your dog has developed any sort of ear infection. You have to give these medications to your dog daily for 2-3 weeks.

If this treatment doesn’t work for your dog, your vet may step further and use a wax-based antibiotic to treat the infection.

  • Ear Tumors Treatment: In case of a tumor, the vet will perform surgery to clean up the dog’s ear canal.

Living With a Deaf Dog

Once your dog receives treatment, you will have to visit the vet weekly for follow-up appointments. He will examine the healing process of your pet and will guide you through the further process.

Usually, ear infections take 2-3 weeks to recover, depending on the severity. 

Deaf animals need their owner’s special attention and care to heal quickly. As a sane pet owner, you should keep a check on your pal’s movement to avoid any possible injury. Plus, never let your dog go out of the house without a leash as they can’t hear a vehicle’s horn while on the road.

Moreover, you should train your pet to understand sign language. This way, you can communicate with it better.

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The Bottomline

Hearing loss in dogs becomes very common as they grow older. Even though the condition is unavoidable, you can help your pet with it in various ways.

First, you should look for the symptoms of deafness in your little friend and then take prompt action for their treatment.

Lastly, if, unfortunately, your dog develops permanent or temporary deafness, you should learn to live with it and make life easier for your best friend.

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