Skip to content
How to Deal with Age-Related Hearing Loss in Dogs

How to Deal with Age-Related Hearing Loss in Dogs

Reasons for Hearing Loss in Dogs

Senile deafness develops gradually in senior dogs, usually at around 13 years of age. While many dogs lose a lot of their hearing ability, they typically don’t go completely deaf although the hearing loss is permanent.

Deafness in dogs can be caused by a range of factors, including:

  • congenital defects, which is often seen in breeds such as Dalmatians and Jack Russell terriers
  • severe, long-lasting ear infections, or conditions such as a tumor
  • injuries to the head area, for example, a ruptured eardrum
  • toxicity caused by prescription drugs
  • degenerative changes to the nerves caused by old age or disease.

Temporary deafness can also occur, which is usually a result of a buildup of wax and debris in the dog’s ear canal. In addition, some dogs have excess hair in or around their ears that can mingle with the wax and debris and form a plug, leading to hearing loss. This type of deafness can usually be resolved with treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of Age-Related Hearing Loss

It’s easy to mistake the signs of deafness for other issues.

Not Coming When Called

The most common sign is the inability to hear commands, which often begins with difficulty identifying high-pitched sounds like a whistle. If your dog stops coming to your whistle or pays less attention when you call his name, it may be a sign of hearing loss.

Unexpected Disobedience

Dogs who have always been well-behaved and suddenly stop responding to commands are very likely not purposely rebelling against their owners. Before you get frustrated with your dog’s unexpected disobedience, try doing a few tests to see if it’s related to hearing loss.

Increased Startle Reflex

A dog with hearing loss automatically begins to rely on other senses, and be more likely to get startled by a touch, the vibration of someone walking nearby and even a strong gust of wind. If this happens unexpectedly the dog can be overwhelmed and afraid of the unusual stimuli, so be patient with your best friend if she suddenly becomes timid and jumpy.

Excessive Barking

If you’ve ever spent time with a person who is hard of hearing, you’ll know they usually speak loudly almost as if they think you can’t hear them. That’s because they can’t hear themselves, so they turn up the volume until they can. Dogs also regulate their voices, but if they can’t hear themselves it’s not surprising that they bark louder and more often.

Sleeping More

It might be difficult to believe dogs can actually sleep any more than they do, but for senior dogs, a natural response to hearing loss is to withdraw from interacting and become more passive. This doesn’t necessarily mean the dog is sad or depressed, she may just be feeling overwhelmed by what’s happening and trying to cope by internalizing and being more cautious.

One of the most obvious signs could also be that your dog stops moving her ears around towards the source of sounds, so watch her carefully to see if she appears to ignore the noises around her.

Testing for Deafness in Dogs

With all the different reasons for hearing loss in dogs, it’s difficult to know whether your pet is suffering from age-related hearing loss. This makes it important not to assume that age is the cause and to get a veterinary exam, in case the reason is one that can be reversed.

Typically, age-related hearing loss goes hand-in-hand with other signs of aging, too. Try clapping your hands behind your dog, or calling her while she is sleeping. Stand a few feet away to avoid her sensing the vibration, instead of hearing. If she ignores you, the chances are good she didn’t hear you. 

These types of tests might give you an idea of your dog’s level of deafness, but the most dependable method for determining loss of hearing is the Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response test, or BAER test, which can be performed by your veterinarian. The test was originally developed to test hearing in infants, and it records the electrical activity of the brain in response to sound stimulation.

Techniques for Managing Senior Dog Deafness

It might take a while for you to get used to living with a deaf dog, but rest assured you will be the only one who cares. Your dog certainly won’t, even if she realizes it has happened. Here’s how you can adapt your circumstances to ensure your best friend continues to live the very best life she can.

Teach New Communication Methods

Just as you trained your dog initially to come when called, sit on command and whatever else you managed to achieve, you’ll need to retrain her to respond to hand signals. Work through the same training you used in the beginning, but with hand signals added to the commands. Make sure she is watching your hands by doing the signals with a treat tucked between your fingers. Give her lots of praise when she gets it right.

          Check out this crash course in doggie sign language from Animal Wellness Magazine for some help.

Monitor Your Dog to Avoid Injury

Keep in mind that a dog who can’t hear won’t be aware of traffic, other dogs, or any other form of danger. Never let her off leash unattended, and if your yard is not secure then don’t let her out alone there either.

Use Visual Cues

People who are deaf make use of devices such as flashing doorbells and vibrating mobile phones to know when their attention is required. With a bit of time to get accustomed to the idea, your dog can learn to associate turning the room light off and on with time to go outside before bed, or the porch light (or a flashlight) going off and on with it being time to come back indoors. During the daytime she may be able to see your hand signals, but this could be harder in darkness, especially if her eyesight isn’t what it used to be.

Keep Her Posted

Let your dog know where you are, especially when you leave the house or return again. She may become anxious if she doesn’t hear you go and suddenly comes looking for you, or if you enter without her knowing you are out, she could think you are an intruder. Make it a habit to tap her gently on the back or head when you come and go, which she will come to recognize as a notification.

Approach with Caution

Deaf dogs startle easily, particularly when they are asleep. Waking your senior dog without warning can cause a number of unpleasant events, ranging from attacking you to having a heart attack. If you’re approaching a dog who can’t hear you and isn’t looking at you, for whatever reason, start by clapping your hands or stomping your feet to create vibrations. For a dog who is sleeping, hold your hand in front of her nose for a second or two so she can pick up your scent, then touch her gently to wake her.

Be Prepared

Your deaf dog can’t hear you, so make sure you can hear her if you become separated for any reason. Attaching a bell to her collar enables you to track her down if she gets lost while out walking, or even when she is moving around in the house and unable to hear you calling her.

The most profound care you can give your senior dog is to make sure she is healthy, happy, and well-loved. If she suffers from anxiety as a result of age-related hearing loss, use natural products like Canine Calm & Happy bioformula to help soothe her. Maintain regular healthy exercise even if she has joint stiffness with our Hip & Joint bioformula, and keep her free of allergies with Dr. Garber’s Canine Skin & Allergy bioformula.

Cart 0

Your cart is currently empty.

Start Shopping