Quite often, pet owners are unaware of their cat’s hearing loss until the cat is completely deaf.
Since felines can compensate for early degrees of hearing loss, it may take some keen eyes for the owner to pick up on symptoms of deafness in cats.
There are two general categories of hearing loss in cats:
1. Conduction deafness occurs when sound waves don’t hit the nerves for hearing. This type of deafness can be caused from inflammation of the outer ear, presence of tumors or ruptured ear drums. Some medications also promote this problem in a cat’s hearing ability.
If your kitty is deaf at birth, or becomes deaf at a young age, it is usually because of a birth defect, especially in white kittens with blue eyes. Breeds that are at high risk of congenital deafness include white Persians, white Turkish Angoras and ragdolls.
2. Nerve deafness can be either congenital or acquired through toxic drugs to the cat’s eyes or a tumorlike growth (neoplasia). Problems with ear mites, tumors or infections can be easily detected and treated by your veterinarian.
Deafness in older cats is caused by a combination of nerve damage and the bones of the inner ear fusing together. Hearing loss due to aging requires the BAER response test. Age-related deafness in cats is not reversible, but you can help your senior cat adjust to hearing loss by practicing the following measures:
- Do not startle your cat.
- Clap your hands to get her attention.
- Use the slow blink (“I love you”) instead of talking. She will probably enjoy “talking” back to you with her eyes.
Your tender care will help your senior cat adjust to life without sound.
3 Symptoms of Deafness in Cats
Symptoms may include:
- Unresponsive to everyday sounds
- Very loud meowing
- Not responding to her name when you call — or even, “Here, kitty, kitty!”
A cat going deaf shows several signs. If you notice her not coming to you when you call, or if she doesn’t come running when you open that can of food, a visit to your vet’s office is in order. Although hearing loss is not normally a serious condition in aging pets, you will want to be sure there is not another contributing condition.
While congenital deafness is irreversible, hearing impairments caused by inflammation of the ear have been successfully reversed through medications or surgery. Some animals have even been lucky enough to use a hearing aid, just as humans do!
Spaying is very important if your cat is genetically deaf. A deaf female cat will call out louder when she is in heat, bringing Toms from all directions. Since she wouldn’t be able to hear her kittens, her mothering skills would be a bit limited.
A deaf cat can still be a great pet. She will just need a little more “I love you” signals.
This video shows Suzie, a cat who has lost her hearing over several years, still playing and being a part of her family:
- Veterinary Clinics of North America: Congenital deafness and its recognition
- The Complete Home Veterinary Guide: Nerve deafness in cats and dogs (book excerpt)