Treatment Options for Deaf Dogs Protecting Your Dog's Hearing

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Certain types of hearing loss in dogs are curable. In instances where itโ€™s not, you can take steps to support your pet and keep your deaf dog safe and healthy.

There are many signs that a dog is having trouble hearing. You may realize that your pet doesnโ€™t seem to notice youโ€™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, itโ€™s time to do a quick at-home test: stand behind your dog (out of sight) and clap once loudly. If your dog doesnโ€™t seem to notice, itโ€™s time to get a vetโ€™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 dogโ€™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 itโ€™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 dogโ€™s ear canals, but you can use an at-home ear cleanser when 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 a permanent hearing loss.

Managing Permanent Hearing Loss

If your dogโ€™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 โ€œcureโ€ 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 youโ€™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 of being attacked by other animals. Attaching a bell to your dogโ€™s collar can also be helpful so you can find deaf dogs in the event they get loose and canโ€™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.

Youโ€™ll also have to adjust how you get your dogโ€™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.

Causes of Deafness in Dogs

Dogs have a well-deserved reputation for keen hearing that can pick up tones undetectable by the human ear. Unfortunately, not every canine has that gift. Hearing loss or total deafness affects many dogs for different reasons. If youโ€™re a dog parent (or considering becoming one) itโ€™s good to understand the following factors that can impact your petโ€™s hearing.

Genetic Causes of Deafness in Dogs

Incidents of congenital deafness, or deafness at birth, have been reported in nearly 100 different breeds of dogs. Dogs with white fur in their coats and those with spotted or patched coats (called piebald or merle dogs) have the highest risk of being born with genetic hearing loss. Whether or not these dogs are deaf depends on whether they lack colored, or pigmented, cells in their ears.

Among those most at risk are Dalmatians; overall, about 30% of Dalmatians are born deaf in either one or both ears. Other breeds with high rates of congenital deafness include English Setters, Catahoula Leopard Dogs, Australian Cattle DogsEnglish Cocker SpanielsJack Russell Terriers, and Bull Terriers.

Other Causes of Permanent Hearing Loss

As dog's age, they may suffer gradual hearing loss due to changes that occur within the ear or nervous system over time. These changes are most likely to start around 10 years of age. Your dog will probably not become totally deaf and, in fact, may continue to be able to hear high-pitched sounds, but there can be significant hearing loss. This gradual loss of hearing can result in behavioral changes such as becoming less active.
Injuries to the ear from trauma or exposure to loud noises can also cause irreversible deafness in dogs. Hunting dogs, for instance, who are repeatedly exposed to loud gun blasts are at significant risk.

Causes of Temporary Hearing Loss

Ear infections can interfere with your petโ€™s sense of hearing and need to be treated right away to prevent any long-lasting damage. The cause of the ear infection can affect how quickly a serious problem and possible deafness occur. The most common cause of infection is an infestation of ear mites, parasites that breed in the ear and create a waxy discharge as they feed on your pet. This waxy discharge can lead to blockages that cause deafness. Ear mites, thankfully, can be eradicated with proper treatment, which may include drops, oral medication, or topical treatments.

Other issues that can cause blockages are cuts inside the ear that become infected, a buildup of hair or skin cells, or fungus or yeast infections (although these are less common in dogs than cats). Regularly checking your dogโ€™s ears can help you spot blockages or signs of inflammation early so that you can nip any problems in the bud before they progress to the point of causing hearing loss. Regular vet visits are also important so your vet can properly clean your dogโ€™s ears.

Cancer and Deafness

Dogs can develop tumors in their ears, and these can impact your petโ€™s hearing. Polyps or tumors should be surgically removed even if they are benign. Once the tumors are removed, your dogโ€™s hearing should return to normal, but youโ€™ll need to talk to your vet about any ongoing treatment or follow-ups to discuss any needed treatments for cancerous growths.

More on Hearing Loss

Senior Dog Care: Keeping Your Senior Pet Healthy
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.

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