While many consumers worry about hearing loss as they head into older age, a new study found that their four-legged friends can also struggle with hearing impairment.
According to experts from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, dogs can experience hearing loss for many of the same reasons as humans, including age, disease, or consistent exposure to noise.
“Most commonly, noise-induced hearing loss results from damage to hair cells in the cochlea that vibrate in response to sound waves,” said researcher Dr. Kari Foss. “However, extreme noise may also damage the eardrum and the small bones within the inner ear, called the ossicles.”
Caring for dogs with hearing loss
Dr. Foss wants consumers to know how to detect if their pets might be struggling with hearing loss, and how to best go about communicating with pets with impaired hearing.
For starters, she explained that pet owners should pay close attention to their dog’s behavior, as this is the primary way to determine if a dog is struggling with hearing. She revealed three main factors that could indicate hearing loss for dogs:
Sleeping through loud noises
Different barking habits
Not responding to verbal cues
Dog owners shouldn’t be concerned about hearing loss influencing any other health concerns. However, it’s important for consumers to know how to best communicate with their pets under these circumstances.
Dr. Foss recommends that pet owners should rely on visual cues instead of vocal cues with their pets; these can include hand gestures and eye contact. Limiting pets’ exposure to loud noises can also be beneficial.
“They are vulnerable to undetected dangers such as motor vehicles or predators and therefore should be monitored when outside,” Dr. Foss said.
Dogs can adapt
If consumers suspect their pet might be struggling with hearing loss, Dr. Foss recommends seeking out a vet for a professional evaluation. Though adjustments may not be necessary, dogs typically adapt well to changes.
“A dog with congenital hearing loss grows up completely unaware that they are different from other dogs,” said Dr. Foss. “Dogs that lose their hearing later in life may be more acutely aware of their hearing loss, but they adapt quite well. A dog’s life would be significantly more affected by the loss of smell than by a loss of hearing.”