There are many signs that a dog is having trouble hearing. You may realize that your pet doesn’t seem to notice you’re in a room unless you touch them. Your dog may repeatedly turn the wrong way when you call, or your pet may not respond to noises such as a doorbell. Dogs who are hard of hearing sometimes bark excessively or paw and scratch at their ears. If you notice these signs, it’s time to do a quick at home test: stand behind your dog (out of sight) and clap once loudly. If your dog doesn’t seem to notice, it’s time to get a vet’s opinion.
Diagnosing a Deaf Dog
Of course, before your vet offers any suggestions for treatment, they will need to get an accurate diagnosis. After checking the ear canals for wax, inflammation, and infection, your vet may need to administer a BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) test. For this, small electrodes are placed under the skin of your dog’s scalp. Your vet exposes your dog to a variety of sounds and then measures how your dog responds to those sounds. This test and the physical examination can help your vet determine how severe the hearing loss is and whether it’s permanent or not. Then you can start taking steps to treat your pet.
Treating Temporary Hearing Loss
The most common causes of hearing loss are curable with proper treatment from your vet and at-home care. Your veterinarian will need to clear out hair and wax buildup in your dog’s ear canals, but you can use an at-home ear cleanserwhen grooming your pet to ensure that they stay clear and healthy.
Ear infections can cause partial deafness as well -- and left untreated, infections could cause permanent hearing loss. Your vet may recommend a combination of topical steroids and oral antibiotics to clear up the infection. If the cause is a fungus or yeast, you may need to use a fungicide medication. In cases where the infection is caused by mites, your vet will likely recommend an anti-parasite medication. If you want to avoid using chemical drugs, talk to a holistic vet about homeopathic options.
Tumors and Hearing Loss
Growths, or polyps, in the ears can also cause hearing loss. Whether these tumors are benign or malignant, they should be removed. Laser surgery can be very effective, but in some cases your dog will need to have the whole ear canal removed. In such cases, your dog might end up with permanent hearing loss.
Managing Permanent Hearing Loss
If your dog’s deafness is due to genetics or an illness that caused irreparable damage to the ear or hearing-related nerves then there is nothing you can do to “cure” your dog. Instead, you should focus on helping your dog adapt to life.
One of the first things to keep in mind is that hearing-impaired dogs should never be allowed to explore alone or run free outdoors. A safe, fenced-in area is essential along with a leash that you can use when you’re out and about. This will help your dog avoid getting into traffic, which can be deadly, and allow you to protect a dog who might be at risk for being attacked by other animals. Attaching a bell to your dog’s collar can also be helpful so you can find deaf dogs in the event they get loose and can’t hear you call them.
Some owners also find it helpful to train a deaf dog to follow visual commands, essentially teaching your dog a type of sign language.
You’ll also have to adjust how you get your dog’s attention. Avoid shaking a dog suddenly, which can startle your pet and may cause them to snap. Instead, flash the lights in a room, stomp on the floor, or wave at your dog to get their attention. The most important thing, of course, is to offer your pet love and attention, which will help your dog thrive despite being hearing impaired.
More on Hearing Loss
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Dog Dementia: How it Affects Aging Dogs
Aging and Old Dog Behaviors
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.