Flickr User Chris Quinnell
There are many different causes of deafness, some that can be fixed and others that are irreversible. Hearing loss could be brought on by a build-up of wax in the ear canals – which is common with breeds that have naturally narrow ear canals, like Poodles. Or, if your pooch is especially hairy, that hair could be the culprit for blocking ear canals because it collects wax and acts as a plug of sorts. If you have a Cocker Spaniel, Terrier, or another breed with a mess of hair, be sure to watch that it’s not causing hearing problems. Foreign objects getting stuck in the ear canal can also cause hearing loss in your furry friend.
Old age, injury, or untreated ear infections are some of the permanent causes of hearing loss. Drugs such as antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, and heavy metals – like arsenic, lead, and mercury – all can cause hearing loss as well.
Though it’s generally perceived as a condition that afflicts senior pets, it’s also possible for a dog to be born without the ability to hear. Certain dog breeds are predisposed to inherited deafness, such as the Dalmatian. Persians, Ragdolls, and white Oriental Shorthairs are some of the cat breeds that are also at a higher risk for congenital deafness.
Signs and Symptoms
Think your pet is suffering from hearing loss? There are things that you can watch out for if you think that they might be having trouble hearing.
Ask yourself: does your pet only know you’re in the room when you touch them or if they see you? Do they turn the wrong way when you call for them? Does he react to a doorbell or the sounds of other animals? Are they always startled when you approach them from behind?
Signs including your pet shaking their head often, barking or meowing excessively, pawing at their ears or an odd smell coming from the ears might be indicative of a potential hearing issue. If your pet suffers from disorientation or seems sluggish or more hesitant than usual, hearing loss may also be at work.
One way to test your pet’s hearing is to sneak behind them and clap loudly and check their response. If they don’t respond in a fashion that you as an owner are used to, it might be time for a trip to the vet.
Your veterinarian can examine your pet to see if they are suffering from hearing loss. They can check your pet’s ear canal to see if there is wax accumulation, any sign of infections, inflammation, injury, or a foreign object lodged inside. Sometimes, if the case is more serious, they’ll perform the BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) procedure. In this procedure, small electrodes are placed under the skin of the scalp so the veterinarian can measure the auditory response to outside stimuli. In certain cases, hearing aids are used and have been successful with some animals.
Remedies from your vet can help reverse temporary deafness. Wax can be washed out, hair can be removed, and infections can be medicated. Unfortunately, permanent hearing loss cannot be reversed. That doesn’t mean, however, that your pet can’t live a happy, high-quality life.
Living with a deaf animal might not be easy at first and it will take some time getting used to, but it’s just as rewarding as living with any other pet.
Keep in mind that vocal commands are no longer an option as a pet owner, that other techniques must be used in order to converse with your pet. Hand signals, loud stomps (so your pet can feel the vibration) and utilizing a flashlight or a laser pen are non-verbal techniques that can help you communicate with your pet who is losing their hearing.
Safety is another big aspect of caring for a hearing impaired pet. Your pet can no longer hear if another animal is approaching them, so only let them outside if you’re watching them and keep them leashed or in a fenced-in yard. Also, it’s good to attach a bell to their collar so you can hear them if they wander off. And remember to always be patient, loving, and kind to your hearing impaired pet.