The 101 On Dog Deafness
Until we start suspecting that our four-legged friend might not be able to hear us, most of us do not even think about the fact that dogs can be deaf. Even people who have been dog owners their entire lives can be completely stupefied by the idea that their dog will never hear their voice.
After an official diagnosis has been made, people will start flooding you with horrors stories about deaf dogs who just couldn’t be trained and who turned into barking, biting monsters. Then, you read up on it some more and realize that, like all other dog-related horror stories, these are total nonsense too. This is when you start reading up on it and getting educated.
Our goal today is to give you that much-needed intro into the world of deaf dogs and lay the foundations for your further education.
First of all, we should take a closer look at all the things that can cause deafness in dogs. It turns out that the causes are very similar to those that result in deafness in humans.
For example, there are dogs who are simply born deaf for genetic reasons. This is called congenital deafness and it usually comes with certain irregularities in the pigmentation of the skin and the hair. Infections and injuries can also damage a dog’s hearing. Some dogs will hear less and less as they age, eventually ending up totally deaf. In addition to this, sudden, extremely loud noises can result in temporary or permanent deafness in dogs.
For an observant dog owner, the signs that their dog might be deaf become obvious very soon. If the dog is still a pup in a litter, you might notice that it is a bit more aggressive during play with other pups. The reason for this is that it cannot hear other pups signaling they are hurt by yelping. Furthermore, deaf pups will not wake up for feeding until they are bumped by other pups or until they feel vibrations.
If your dog is a bit older, you will probably notice that it does not respond when you call it or when loud noises can be heard. You need to be careful because a deaf dog can still recognize being called if they can see you. You will want to test them when they are looking away from you or the source of the noise.
In case you wish to test whether or not your dog is deaf, there are a few things that you can do in your home. Before we get to these, we should point out a few things first. First of all, it can be difficult to even suspect a dog is deaf if there is another dog in the house. They will simply notice that this other dog is responding to something and they will do the same. Also, you need to understand that many sounds also produce vibrations in the air that even deaf dogs can register.
As far as the tests are concerned, you might try jangling keys or a can of coins as it will not produce vibrations. You can squeak a toy while making sure the air current cannot reach the dog. You can also try clapping your hands or banging some pots together. Once again, you will want to do it away from the dog so as to prevent vibrations. A doorbell or a telephone is also a great test.
You also need to keep in mind that these tests will only tell you if your dog is deaf in both ears. Some dogs suffer from what is known as unilateral deafness, where they can hear perfectly well in one ear while being deaf in the other.
If your homemade tests are still not giving you conclusive results or if you wish to check if your dog might be deaf in just one ear, you will need to take it in for a BAER test. BAER stands for Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response and it is a test where brain activity is monitored, indicating that the dog has heard a specific sound. It is a painless test that lasts between 10 and 15 minutes. It can be a bit on the pricey side, but for dog owners who want to be 100 percent sure about their pooch’s hearing, it is the only conclusive way to find out.
Deaf dogs can have a perfectly normal life, although it can be a challenge to train and care for them. There are plenty of great books on this subject and a website called DeafDogs.org that you should definitely check out.