Deafness in Dogs

Breed Profile



  • WEIGHT: 65 to 130 lbs
  • HEIGHT: 23 to 28 inches
  • COLOR(S): White, brindle, and pinto.
  • BREED GROUP: Working

Deafness in Dogs

Causes of Deafness in Canines
by Jack Russell  

Canines, much like humans, can have various causes for the loss of proper hearing. Trauma is one of the most recognizable causes of deafness in dogs. The trauma can be physical trauma which causes severe damage to the canine’s ears or it can be less noticeable trauma, such as noise trauma. Noise trauma to a dog is not much different from that of a human. It can leave a dog with permanent or short-term temporary hearing loss. Noise trauma can occur after loud music, explosions, gun shots or other extremely loud noises that a dog may be exposed to. Infections are yet another very common cause of hearing loss in canines.

Jack Russel Terrier Ear infections, medically referred to as “Otitis”, can occur in either the inner ear, or the middle ear. A hearing deficiency after an ear infection may be permanent or temporary. It is more common, however, to have permanent hearing loss with an untreated inner ear infection than an untreated middle ear infection. Less common causes of deafness in dogs include the use of general anesthesia and drug toxicity.

In some instances, it has been found that canines awaken from general anesthesia with deafness in both ears. The reasoning behind this is unknown yet it is thought to be due to the blood flow being re-routed to protect the most vital organs during anesthesia. Drug toxicity related deafness exists when a canine’s ears are exposed to a drug or some form of a chemical that is capable of killing the cells within the cochlear hair. It is not possible for a canine to recover from this form of hearing loss. Most commonly, dogs will suffer hearing loss due to a congenital deafness or age-related hearing loss. Congenital deafness is more prevalent in some breeds than others. These dogs may be born with hearing loss or it may progressively increase as the canine ages. Often times congenital deafness goes hand in hand with age-related hearing loss although age-related hearing loss can occur in dogs without congenital deafness.

  • Trauma/Injury
  • Infection (Otitis)
  • General Anesthesia
  • Drug Toxicity (Ototoxicity)
  • Congenital Deafness
  • Age-Related Hearing Loss (Presbycusis)

Additional Information:
Causes of Deafness in Canines: A look at the variety of causes for temporary and permanent hearing loss in dogs.

Hereditary Canine Deafness: A guide to hereditary genes in particular breeds of canines that can be a source of deafness in dogs.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss: More information about canines suffering from noise-induced hearing loss.

Signs For Identifying Hearing Loss In Canines
If your dog is suffering from hearing loss, whether injury or age-related, you may notice some differences in your companion’s behavior. A canine whom is experiencing hearing deficiencies may no longer respond to noises such as a doorbell, whistles or their favorite squeaky toys. They may show little or no recognition when their name is shouted, or when vocal commands are given. You may begin to notice that noises that would usually awaken your dog, no longer even makes them flinch. Dogs suffering from temporary or permanent hearing loss, may appear to be disoriented or confused, may begin to act startled when touched and a gentle pet may become overly aggressive, especially with other animals. If you notice any of these behaviors in your dog, it is possible that your dog may be suffering from hearing loss and is in need of an examination by a veterinarian. A veterinarian will perform a "Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response" or BAER test to determine if hearing loss is present and if so, how severe the damage is. BAER testing is the only way of knowing for sure if a dog is deaf.

  • No response to common noises (doorbell, barking, yelling, hand clapping, whistles, squeaky toys, etc.)
  • No response to vocal commands, or shows no recognition to hearing its name.
  • Not easily awakened.
  • May make strange and unusual noises.
  • Appears to be confused, irritated or all around disoriented.
  • Startles easily when touched.
  • Severely aggressive with other dogs.

Additional Information:
Deaf Dog Education Action Fund: A foundation based on educating pet owners about deaf dogs. 

Hearing Loss Symptoms in Dogs: How to identify if your dog may have hearing loss.

Risks and Dangers Associated with Deafness in Dogs
When a dog is suffering from hearing loss, the dangers are more prevalent to them than canines with the ability to hear. They must learn new skills, such as how to focus on using their sight and vibrations of the ground to sense dangers in their environment. Potential hazards to deaf dogs include cars as they can no longer hear them coming their way, animals that may potentially become aggressive as well as small children whom may not know how to approach a deaf dog. Be sure to keep the dog on a leash while around unfamiliar areas and environments, as their behavior may change drastically while adjusting to their hearing loss. Owners must also learn new skills in order to protect their companions from hazards as they are learning to cope with their hearing loss.

  • Cars
  • Other Animals
  • Children

Additional Information:
Dangers for Deaf Dogs: The various dangers associated with deafness and canines.

Hearing Aides/Treatments For Hearing Loss in Canines
There is no cure for permanent deafness in canines. If the hearing loss is due to an infection, it may be possible to regain hearing after a course of antibiotics is given. Hearing aides have been used in dogs as well as other animals. Most animals do not allow the hearing aid to stay in place within the ear canal. The best potential method is to learn to cope with the hearing loss by learning new means of communication.

Additional Information:
Disability Aids for Dogs: Aids to assist dogs with disabilities, including information about hearing aids and cochlear implants for canines.

Tips For Communicating With A Deaf Canine
It is possible for your dog to lead a normal, happy life despite deafness. It will require new means of communication between owner and pet, however. Hand signals are the best way to communicate with a deaf canine. There are books and other resources that ensure there are understandable hand signs that are easy for humans to give and for canines to easily obey. Obedience training can be extremely helpful, as it is necessary to maintain control over a deaf dog for their own safety, in addition to the safety of others. Even more importantly, deaf dogs must always be approached and treated with compassion. They may have difficulties adjusting to their loss of hearing and their behavior may change drastically.

  • Hand Signals
  • Obedience Training
  • Compassion

Additional Information:
FAQ: Deaf Animals: A frequently asked question segment on communicating with deaf animals, including "animal sign language" information.

Deaf Dog Training: Tips for training dogs with hearing loss or deafness.

Deafness In Dogs – A journal entry from Pub Med discussing causes of deaf dogs, in particular the histopathology of the temporal bones in deaf dogs.

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