When I was visiting my aunt’s house the other day, we both discussed the possibility that her elderly dog was going deaf. We both noticed her dog wasn’t responding immediately when called. We then ran some tests together; it became quickly obvious her dog was not hearing everything as it should.
But can you tell if your dog is going deaf and are there hearing tests you can do at home? The short answer is, yes.
How to tell if your dog is going deaf? You can tell your dog is going deaf by how they respond to sounds. Try claps, whistles, or calls behind the dog with your face and hands hidden. Other ways to tell will be confusion, not waking up easily, or barking more excessively than usual.
You should be looking for obvious behavioral changes too, all of which can show that your dog’s loss of hearing is affecting their daily routines.
A dog can go deaf for a number of reasons. An older dog is more likely to have hearing loss while injuries or underlying medical conditions could also be the reason a dog is going deaf. In fact, certain dog breeds are more susceptible to deafness.
Read on to find out more detailed signs of what look out for to tell if your dog is going deaf. I’ve also included some ways of home testing whether your dog is losing their hearing.
How do you test a dog’s hearing?
Signs that your dog is going deaf will mainly be sudden changes in how your dog responds to you and other sounds. This is a good indication your dog is not hearing well. You can also look out for unusual or sudden behavioral changes to indicate if something’s up.
1: Your dog is not responding to voice commands
One of the most common signs your dog is going deaf will be when he or she doesn’t respond to verbal commands. If your dog is well-disciplined and has always come when you call him, if he suddenly seems to be ignoring you, he could be losing his hearing.
Another way of tell your dog is going deaf, is by watching how your dog responds to verbal commands such as during meal times, play time, and on walkies. If he’s not responding something is not right and needs to be checked out by your vet.
2: Your dog is not responding to whistles
Do you normally whistle when calling your dog or trying to get his attention?
When a dog starts to go deaf, their ability to hear high-pitched sounds drops. Hearing high-pitched sounds becomes challenging for a dog with hearing loss and he’ll no longer hear your whistles and respond to them.
Handy Hint: Dogs with healthy hearing can hear for miles away. Here’s what that hearing is like compared to a humans.
3: Your dog becomes disobedient
Another sign your dog is going deaf is when they can no longer hear your commands or respond to your whistling. This behavior may come across as disobedient and you may be tempted to reprimand him. But if he’s always been a well-behaved dog, you should investigate his sudden disobedience further.
Look out for times when your dog appears to be turning his back on you whenever you instruct him to stop doing something. Or he won’t stop barking when you tell him too.
These are all signs of deafness in a dog which can be confused with disobedience.
4: Your dog is easily startled
A dog relies on his senses every day. This includes smell, touch, hearing, and his vision. When his hearing goes, he may be suddenly startled when you seemingly appear out of nowhere. Or, if you touch him on his back before he knows you are there.
When you notice your dog seems to be easily startled, get his hearing checked as this could be the best way to tell they are going deaf.
5: Your dog is barking more than usual
Excessive barking from your dog could be another sign they’re going deaf. Barking is a form of communication for dogs and in order to hear their own voice, they’ll raise the level of barking. Sometimes, a dog will think that you may not hear them because they can’t hear themselves. So, they’ll bark more than usual and louder.
6: Your dog withdraws from life
When someone struggles to hear properly, they’ll often withdraw from social activities, engage less with others, and become isolated. The same applies to a dog who loses his hearing. I
If you notice your dog is withdrawing more and avoiding all social interactions, then this could be a sign he is going deaf and struggling to adapt to his new condition. A bouncy, alert dog who suddenly becomes passive could be an indication he’s going deaf.
7: Your dog doesn’t wake up easily
Okay, most of us like to sleep in as much as possible! While dogs do sleep more hours than us humans, they normally wake easily if they hear a noise or are woken up by your voice.
However, a dog who’s going deaf will not wake up easily no matter how much noise there is around him. And, if he wakes up startled because you nudged him, this could also be a sign he’s losing his hearing.
8: Your dog has an ear infection
Not all hearing loss is permanent especially if your dog’s deafness is caused by an ear infection. If you suspect this is the case, take him to your vet for a full checkup.
Signs of an ear infection include constant scratching of the ear, persistent shaking of the head, or even fluids oozing from the ear. Once the infection clears up, your dog’s hearing will return to normal.
Other possibilities to look for here would be ear mites or even fleas around the ear that cause scratching and irritation.
How can I test my dog’s hearing at home?
Here are some methods of testing your dog’s hearing at hoe if you’re concerned he’s going deaf and have no way of telling yet.
Test 1: Talk to your dog
Try talking to your dog when he’s not facing you. If he shows no sign of hearing your voice, he could be suffering from deafness. Oftentimes, we get confused because your dog will, at times, hear your voice and at other times, not hear you talking.
Use different tones of voice when testing your dog’s hearing. Often commands and exclamations of affection are given in a high-pitched tone. If your dog is not responding to these, he could be going deaf as the ability to hear high-pitched sounds is the first to go when your dog becomes deaf.
Test 2: Clap your hands
Clapping your hands could be another way to test your dog’s hearing at home. A dog will most times respond to the sound of clapping hands, purely out of curiosity or if it’s part of a game. We also sometimes clap our hands as a form of discipling or when giving a command.
Your dog is very sensitive to air movement so make sure you carry this test out at a distance. A dog will easily pick up the clapping movement just by the vibrations in the air if you do it too close to him.
Test 3: Get a friend to ring your doorbell
Show me a dog who doesn’t go crazy whenever the doorbell is rung! Ask a friend to visit and to ring the doorbell. If your dog continues to snooze through the ringing or totally ignores it even if he’s awake, then you can safely assume he might be going deaf.
Don’t get up as soon as your friend rings the doorbell as dogs are smart creatures. By standing up to go to the door you are indicating to your dog that someone is visiting and he’ll respond by getting up as well. So, wait a few seconds while gauging your dog’s reaction.
Test 4: Book for a BAER test
This is a way to test your dog’s hearing, but something a vet will have help you with. BAER stands for Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response test. This relies on recording the electrical activity in your dog’s brain responding to different sound stimulations.
This kind of hearing test can only be performed on dogs older than six weeks old and is a reliable way of confirming levels of deafness.
The BAER test is not painful for your dog but it’s expensive so run some home tests before deciding to ask your vet to conduct this test.
What to do if your dog is going deaf?
If your dog is going deaf and you then have that confirmed by a veterinarian, there lots of things you can do to make their life easier.
I won’t go into detail with them, but instead check out the Pet Health Network website. Here’s a just a few of the points they make.
- Train your dog to understand how to use hand signals instead of voice commands.
- Avoid startling your dog when they don’t know you are there.
- Attach a label to their collar so other people know they are deaf.
Deaf dogs can live a perfectly happy life with your support which involves them and you adapting to this new world. At the first sign you see of your dog having a hearing problem, please consult with your vet. They will be able to test for deafness properly and work on a plan to make the dog’s life easier.