It can be heartbreaking when a pet dog goes deaf.
Most dog owners believe that when a dog becomes deaf it also becomes aggressive and will bite and attack other dogs and humans because it cannot hear and is fearful of its surroundings. Any breed of dog can develop this type of behavior, deaf or not, but aggressive or defensive behavior is not the result of loss of hearing.
Most deaf dogs are familiar enough with their surroundings and family that they are able to manage quite well in spite of their loss of hearing.
If a dog does become defensive or aggressive after losing its hearing, it”s usually because it’s been living as a stray and has found it more difficult to defend itself because of the disability. This instinctive behavior is not usually found in dogs who are part of a loving family.
Deafness in dogs is categorized as either conductive or neurologic. These two causes of deafness are very different but both have the same effect when a dog loses its ability to hear in one or both of its ears. Diagnostic testing is the only way to determine which type of deafness a dog has.
Conductive hearing loss occurs when the inner or outer portion of the ear becomes damaged by ear injury, excessive wax build up, or ear infections, leading to deafness. Excessive wax buildup in the ear takes a relatively long time to cause deafness, whereas injury and ear infections can quickly lead to deafness if not taken care of promptly.
Neurological deafness is caused by a defect of the inner ear or the nerves leading to the brain.
When a dog goes deaf an owner can usually detect the change by observing the dog’s behavior. At the onset of the hearing loss it may appear as though a dog is no longer listening to or obeying commands. However, in a very short time it will become apparent by the dog’s actions that it can no longer hear commands and does not respond to other noises as it had always done before the hearing loss.
Another common sign of deafness is when a dog seems to be confused by commands given it and will randomly move its head in search of sounds. Under normal conditions a dog responds when called, but when deafness occurs, the dog may continue to scan its surroundings trying to determine if anyone is calling it.
Testing by a veterinarian is the only way to make a positive diagnosis of deafness in a dog. The Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response, (BAER) test monitors the electrical activity in the brain that relates to a dog’s hearing. The BAER test can determine neurological causes of deafness.
BAER testing is an accurate way of diagnosing deafness, but most dog owners are easily able to detect deafness in their dog. Most of the signs of deafness are easily noticed and most owners will be able to tell if their dog has become deaf.
There is no “standard” way to cure deafness in dogs. If the cause of the hearing loss is conductive, hearing can sometimes be restored. Treating dangerous ear infections or repairing the damage of an ear injury can restore full hearing or just a portion of a dog””s hearing, assuming that the inner structures of the ear have not been severely damaged.
When a dog is born with an abnormality of the inner structure or nerves of the ear, there is no way to surgically repair the abnormality and the dog will be deaf for life.
Whether your dog becomes deaf or has come to you with an acquired hearing loss, it deserves all the love, attention and patience you can give it. Loving a deaf dog can teach you important lessons about caring for others in this lifetime.