What You Should Know About Canine Deafness

It is estimated that five to ten percent of dogs in the U.S. suffer from deafness, either in one or both ears, according to the American Kennel Club.

There are many reasons dogs can lose their hearing. “Deafness in dogs can be congenital, meaning present at birth, or acquired through infection, trauma or degeneration of the organs necessary for hearing,” says Dr. Genna Mize, a Consulting and Reporting Veterinarian for Virbac. "There are certain traits, such as white and merle coat colors, that are associated with congenital deafness, which is hereditary in nature."

Ear infections can lead to deafness, too. “Severe and chronic ear infections can occlude the ear canal and damage the inner ear, causing deafness,” Dr. Mize says. “This is yet another reason routine veterinary visits are important - we want to catch ear infections, early, before they become progressive and chronic. And just like humans, aging can take its toll on your dog’s hearing. So you can potentially blame your dog’s selective hearing on age!”

Dr. Mize says certain breeds are more susceptible to deafness than others, including the Dalmatian, Bull Terrier, Australian Heeler, English Cocker Spaniel and Boston Terrier.

Deafness in dogs is not always easy to detect. Dr. Mize says the only confirmation test is the brainstem auditory evolved response (BAER) test, which works similarly to an EKG. But only a small number of facilities offer the test and it is typically utilized for evaluating for congenital deafness.

Despite the challenges deaf dogs face, they’re still full of love and loyalty. Like hearing-abled dogs, they make wonderful companions. Here are some tips on caring for a dog with hearing challenges: 

  • Caring for a deaf dog requires consciousness and care for their lack of hearing and primarily includes relying on consistent visual cues, such as hand signals. 
  • Deaf dogs also may not be able to acclimate as well to their environment as regular dogs, so it will be important to keep them safe and secure. Remember your deaf dog might not be able to detect threats such as oncoming vehicles.
  • Keeping your dog safe on a leash or in a secure yard when outdoors is imperative. 
  • Avoid startling your dog and be mindful of children - inadvertent bites can occur even in a dog with a pleasant disposition if unpleasantly surprised. 
  • Ask your veterinarian about things you can do at home to optimize your dog's ear health between check-ups, such as routine ear cleanings with products such as Virbac's EPIOTIC® Advanced Ear Cleanser.

If you’re interested in adopting a deaf dog, contact your local animal shelter or seek out specialty social media groups, such as the Deaf Dogs of Texas Facebook group, that can assist you in the adoption process.