Old age in domestic pets bring all kinds of challenges. From incontinence to arthritis, blindness to disorientation, it can be very difficult to watch our pets get older. This is especially true when they suffer from the loss of hearing, as dogs are known for their complex ear functionality. Whether the deafness is caused by genetic predispositions, nerve damage, trauma, or just old age, find out the main causes and signs of hearing loss in domestic pets.

Causes of Deafness

There are two kinds of deafness: bilateral deafness (which involves either partial or complete loss of hearing in both ears) and unilateral deafness (meaning one ear is perfectly functional while the other may have severe or moderate hearing loss). A pet with unilateral deafness would be able to hear most sounds, but could have trouble detecting where the sound came from or how far away the source was. Here are a few of the main causes for deafness in pets:

  • Birth defects or genetic defects: Some dog breeds are more susceptible than others to congenital diseases if there is a genetic defect of some kind, resulting a dog being deaf at birth.
  • Infection: Ear infections and or ear diseases may cause deafness if the ear drums are occluded and excreting discharge, mucus, and a foul odor. This discomfort might be irritating, inciting the pet to paw at or scratch the ears constantly. Ear wax build up can also contribute to an animal’s inability to detect sounds.
  • Foreign objects: Though the “how did this happen” question may remain a mystery to the pet owner, some dogs are found with off objects lodged deeply in their ear canal. This kind of upset could be causing an irritation of wax, puss, mucous, etc. which inhibits a pet’s normal hearing function.
  • Injury/Trauma: If a pet is hit by a car, or experiences an unexpected blow to the head or a fall, it could cause a degree of partial or full hearing loss.
  • Drugs: Certain drugs, antibiotics and medications can have a toxic effect on pet ears, resulting in sudden hearing loss. Though this is a rather uncommon occurrence, it is worth mentioning.
  • Old Age: Both dogs or cats can suffer from a slow progression of hearing loss which may grow to complete deafness over time.

Signs of Deafness

If you are uncertain as to whether or not your pet has lost his hearing, see if any of these symptoms are familiar to your experience.

  • Unresponsive when called
  • Loud meowing or barking/howling
  • Stumbling and evident dizziness (indicating equilibrium being thrown off)
  • Walking in circles
  • No movement with loud noises/Never being startled (A pet who is in the early stages of hearing loss might tilt his head to one side , or react only to VERY loud noises.)

If you are uncertain of the extent of your pet’s deafness, take him to the veterinarian for a diagnosis and discover what the treatment options may be available to you.