Dogs can be born with a hearing impairment or develop hearing loss later in life. Some breeds, including poodles, Dalmatians, German shepherds, and cocker spaniels, are genetically inclined to develop hearing loss as they age. Spotting the signs of hearing loss can enable you to support your dog and explore treatment options with your vet, so here's what you need to know:
There's not always a clear cause for hearing loss in dogs, but any of the following could be to blame:
- Inflammation or infection in the inner, middle or outer ear, which could cause the ear drum to rupture or the ear canal to narrow
- A tumour affecting the auditory nerve
- Trauma to the ears from a knock or loud noises
- The ears have not developed fully
- Some viruses such as canine distemper can cause a degree of hearing loss
- Some prescription drugs including certain antibiotics and chemotherapy medication
- Exposure to toxins such as mercury and arsenic
Your dog's hearing loss may develop gradually or appear suddenly. Be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Apparent selective hearing
- Unresponsive to their name or noises they used to react to, such as squeaky toys and the sound of mail arriving
- Pawing at their ears, which could indicate pain from inflammation or infection
- Loss of interest in their usual activities
- Loss of confidence when out for walks
Diagnosis And Treatment
Your vet will take a detailed account of your dog's health history and will want to hear about your dog's symptoms. They will examine your dog's ears, take swabs to check for bacteria and perform a few simple hearing tests. Blood samples can also be used to detect inflammation. Treatment will be based on the vet's findings and test results and may include the following:
Medication - If your dog has hearing loss as a result of inflammation or infection in their outer, middle or inner ear, your vet will prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. Inflammation can prevent sound waves from reaching your dog's auditory nerve, but as the inflammation resolves, your dog should start to regain their hearing.
Hearing Aids - As long as your dog's hearing loss is not congenital, they may benefit from wearing hearing aids, which simply amplify sounds. Your vet will take moulds of your dog's ears and have hearing aids custom-made for your dog. Sound is transmitted through amplifiers that sit in your dog's ears, and the hearing aids are secured with a loop that fits behind their ears. Not all dogs will happily keep their hearing aids on, so ask your vet if they have sample hearing aids you can try on your dog to see how they react to them.
Surgery - When hearing aids don't help, your vet may suggest cochlear implant surgery. This allows sound to bypass your dog's ears and reach a receiver implanted on their temporal bone. The receiver sends sound to your dog's auditory nerve, allowing them to hear in a similar way to the natural hearing process.
It won't always be possible to improve your dog's hearing, but your vet can give you advice on how to keep them safe when exercising and how to make their home environment safer.
Hearing loss can be frightening and confusing for your dog, so if you're concerned about your dog's hearing, schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. For more information, contact a business such as Ivanhoe Veterinary Clinic.