It might be because of age, an illness, or even just because your dog was born with it, but the hearing loss in dogs is a very real thing. What exactly is this, and how can you, as a pet owner, make your dog’s life easier and better? Read on below for everything you need to know about your dog’s loss of hearing.
What is the hearing loss?
Hearing loss can be defined as the inability to hear either fully or partially from one or both of your dog’s ears. Hearing loss has many different types and can be caused by a number of reasons, which range from old age, all the way to trauma and illness.
Types of hearing loss
There are two main kinds of hearing the loss in dogs, based on the ways that they can no longer hear. These have been explained below.
Conductive hearing loss
The conductive hearing loss takes place when the sounds from the outside cannot reach the ear on the inside, because of which the dog cannot interpret the sounds. The nerves inside the ear cannot get the signals, and so the dog’s brain cannot understand them.
Sensorineural hearing loss
In this case, although the sounds can reach the nerves in the inner ear, the nerves are not capable of sending the messages any further towards the brain, where they can be understood. This results in the dog not being able to hear the messages at all.
Signs to look out for
How can you know that your dog is losing his or her hearing? Well, there are certain things that you can keep an eye out for. If your dog has a complete hearing loss, he or she may not respond to these at all, whereas partial hearing loss might mean the dog doesn’t respond as well as he or she should. These are:
- No or reduced response to loud noises, such as a crash when things fall, or a ring of the doorbell when someone comes home.
- No or reduced response to the action of snapping fingers right behind the dog’s head.
- The dog expresses difficulty waking up or gets startled when he or she is woken up.
- No or reduced response to you entering the room or calling him or her by name.
- Very loud or continuous barking, or in other situations, not responding to other dog’s barking at all, even if the dog is untrained.
- No difference in response to toys that make sounds and once that don’t.
Causes of hearing loss
Congenital hearing loss
This is the kind of hearing loss that a dog is born with, meaning it simply cannot hear. This may be due to genetics, or because of abnormalities in the structures of the dog’s ears. What this means is, either the dog inherited some of these traits, or the dog’s ears were not fully developed when it was born.
Acquired hearing loss
As suggested by the name, this kind of hearing loss can happen later in life. There is a multitude of reasons why this kind of hearing loss can happen, some of which are:
- Old age: just as with human beings, dogs gradually lose their sense of hearing as they grow older. This is due to the natural degradation of the nerves involved.
- Ear injury: if the dog is injured at the ear, or there is trauma to the part of the brain that will interpret sound, you may notice a loss of hearing.
- Exposure: in some cases, when dogs are exposed to either loud noises or some kinds of heavy metals, they can lose their sense of hearing.
- Infection and drug reactions: if left untreated, certain inflammations and infections of the ear can result in hearing loss, and the same result will be felt when there is a reaction to the specific drug.
How can hearing loss be diagnosed?
If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, you will need them to be taken to a vet ASAP. Now, the vet will work on diagnosing your dog, which can be done in a number of steps. You can do some at home, for example by making noises close to the dog. These may effectively indicate complete hearing loss but partial loss of hearing is much more difficult to identify and diagnose.
The vet will, in turn, start by taking a detailed history of the dog, including the medical history, and in the case of an infection or injury, will try and reduce the inflammation or the damage to the ear or the head. He or she will also probably examine the ears thoroughly, and look for any abnormalities in the structure of the ear or any obstructions in the canal.
A test that can be taken to test how well your dog’s brain is interpreting the sound signals can be done using BAER test, along with radiographs, which help the vet understand what is causing the deafness once it is confirmed.
Treating hearing loss
Once hearing loss is diagnosed, the next step your vet will take is to determine whether or not the hearing loss is temporary (meaning it can be reversed) or if it is indeed permanent. In cases of congenital hearing loss, the effects are usually permanent. Although in some cases, corrective surgery can repair the ear and its structures, but this is often not recommended as there is potential for further damage.
One potential avenue for treatment when it comes to this problem is hearing aids, but while they may make hearing easier, they aren’t very practical for animal use. For infections, obstructions, or tumors, the route of treatment will be different, using antibiotics for the infection, and possibly surgery to remove obstructions and tumor tissue.
Your dog’s treatment, however, does not end here. You should stay in contact with your vet, have regular visits, and get your check-ups frequently. If your dog is permanently deaf, they are considered special needs animals and need special care and support.
Tips for caring for your dog
Chances are, if your dog has hearing loss, he or she will have to live with it for the rest of their lives. However, living with an animal with reduced or no hearing isn’t as impossible as it might seem at first. Here are some helpful tips to make the experience easier for both you and your best friend.
- Use hand signals to get your dog’s attention – it may seem strange, but because dogs are quick deft at picking up body language signals, they can easily be trained to understand and interpret signals instead of voice commands.
- Your role as the caregiver of a special needs animal is crucial. Because your dog is lacking one sense, you have to step up and take better care of him or her.
- Focus on your dog’s other senses, such as that of sight and smell, to get him or her to understand what you are saying and take part in activities.
- Mention ‘I am deaf’ on your dog’s ID so people around him can know. If he or she gets lost, the person to find the dog will already be aware.
- Always keep your dog on a leash when you go outside or when you take him or her out for a walk.
It is understandable that the news that your dog’s hearing is gone may cause a lot of frustration and sadness, but it is not the end of the world. With the right care and support, you and your dog will never miss out on anything.