Deafness can come about at any point in a dog’s lifetime. If a puppy is born this way (known as congenital deafness), the hearing loss can either be caused by something that happened during fetal development or it can be genetic.
Some breeds have a greater chance of developing congenital deafness. Dalmatians are more apt to deafness, either unilaterally (in 1 ear) or bilaterally (both ears). Bull terriers are also at higher risk, especially those that are white in color.
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While many breeders tests their puppies for hearing loss before selling them, it is always a good idea to check for yourself — whether you are buying from a breeder or adopting from an animal shelter or rescue group.
Deaf Dogs Can Live Normal Lives
According to the book My Dog Is Deaf: But Lives Life to the Full, by Jennifer Willms, if your dog is diagnosed as deaf, this shouldn’t mean that your pet can’t live a pretty normal life.
The dog doesn’t realize he even has a disability. “He lacks a sense of hearing,” Willms says, “but since he is not aware of this, he doesn’t miss anything.”
You can use methods of communication to compensate for the lack of hearing. Unlike wild dogs, who would probably encounter feeding and self-protection issues, your pet should have no problem learning to handle his impairment. After all, he’ll have you at his side.
Potential behavioral problems in deaf dogs depend hugely on the family. Even dogs who have perfect hearing need the right nurturing to exhibit model behavior.
Sudden Hearing Loss in Dogs
Sudden onset deafness may be caused by a number of things, including ear infections, noises and inappropriate ear medications.
Certain medications can cause deafness by destroying the cochlear hair cells. According to Dr. Chris C. Pinney, DVM, antibiotics in the aminoglycosides class of ear medications, such as gentamycin and neomycin, might cause nerve deafness if applied into an ear with a ruptured eardrum. This is why it’s so important to see a veterinarian to diagnose and correctly treat ear problems.
Watch this video to see how dogs living with deafness can navigate a multi-dog household:
The Complete Healthy Dog Handbook reports that a middle ear infection can lead to temporary or even permanent deafness. Your veterinarian can make sure your pet gets the proper treatment to clear up the infection.
Deafness is not always sudden. Your pet may have had a gradual decrease in his sense of hearing without you ever noticing it.
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Extremely loud noises can also harm a canine’s ears. Noises like gunfire or fireworks are too fast for the ear to react, therefore causing inner damage. Consistent exposure to these sounds can lead to deafness in 1 or both ears.
As with humans, deafness in dogs can sometimes be linked to old age. When nerve cells in the inner ear begin breaking down, hearing loss begins.
The BAER Test
Having reflected on a few factors of how deafness affects dogs, here’s some advice on how to determine if your dog is, in fact, deaf. Use the BAER test — it’s 100% reliable and uses computers to record the activity of your pet’s brain in response to sound stimulation.
Whatever the outcome, the 2 of you can make simple adjustments to enjoy life together.