Being the resilient little creatures they are, pets won’t allow losing their hearing abilities to get them down and neither should you. Animals are intuitive, intelligent beings and if taught with patience and consistency, they can learn from an early age to cope very well with their remaining four senses.
What is Deafness?
Deafness can be either partial or complete loss of your pet’s ability to hear. It’s far more common than you might think and while some animals may sadly be born with this impairment, it can also emerge later in life.
A loss of hearing in cats and dogs can occur due to the following reasons:
- Conduction: Inflammation of the ear which hampers sound waves from reaching the nerves in the ears.
- Nerve-related issues: Elderly pets may endure deterioration to the nerve.
- Disease: Illnesses such as cancer and trauma may contribute to deafness.
- Inadequate development: This affects part of the ear where nerve receptors are responsible for hearing, leading to an accumulation of fluid on and resultant damage to certain areas of the brain responsible for hearing.
- Drugs ad Toxins: Administration of certain drugs such as antiseptics, chemotherapy and antibiotics can cause hearing impairments.
- Genetics: Some breeds of canines are more susceptible to hearing loss, such as German Shepherds, Dalmatians, Cocker Spaniels and Boston Terriers, amongst others.
Watch out for the following indicators associated with hearing loss in pets:
- gradually becoming unresponsive to sounds
- stops responding to their name
- seems to be unaware of loud sounds in their surroundings
As soon as you notice any of the above symptoms, it is best to consult your vet immediately.
Deafness in puppies and kittens maybe a consequence of hereditary defects however, diagnosis in older animals would usually be based on identifying the underlying causes such as cancer and inflammation. Hearing tests and bacterial cultures are the most common diagnostic tools used to measure the onset of hearing loss.
While deafness at birth is unfortunately irreversible, medical or surgical treatment methods can be prescribed depending on the extent of inflammation. Your vet may also recommend a special hearing aid for your pet. Ensure that you follow the treatment plan provided by your vet for addressing hearing loss caused by inflammation and restrict your pet’s physical activities during this treatment period.
Helping and Caring for Hearing Impaired Pets
A deaf pet should not have to compromise on their quality of life. As their pet parent, you can play an active role in making your fur child’s life more comfortable and contented by:
- investing in a secure fence to restrict your pet from venturing outside without your supervision (animals with audible impairments are oblivious to oncoming vehicles and this may have a devastating outcome)
- employing the use of vibrating collars, leashes as well as tags and microchips which can help you locate your buddy in case they get lost
- ensuring they have a tag on their collar saying, “I’m Deaf”.
- informing others in your neighbourhood about your pet’s hearing impediment
- patiently teaching your loyal love non-verbal cues from an early age. While your pet may be hard of hearing, it’s highly likely that their other four senses function at a heightened level to compensate for their hearing impairment. This makes them extremely alert and responsive to people’s body gestures for visual and tactile prompts, such as:
- getting their attention by waving your hand or aiming a flashlight in their direction (avoiding the eyes) if they aren’t looking at you
- using touching cues to catch their attention by gently pulling on their leash or softly touching their back
- making full use of your facial expressions as pets are incredibly intuitive at reading faces. If you’re pleased with them, smile. If not, frown. That’s all it takes for them to get the picture.
- With this said, never alarm your pet, especially whilst sleeping. Pets with hearing impairments have especially sensitive skin and are incredibly responsive to vibrations. Firmly stomping on the floor or a gentle caress on their body should be able to wake them peacefully.
- patiently teaching your pet sign language or hand gestures from an early age, so you are prepared to communicate with them throughout their lives without relying on verbal cues, whether they are hearing impaired or not. These cues can be taught by:
- demonstrating the action, such as tapping their back
- drawing their interest with a treat, moving it to their nose and up to your eyes to encourage them to make eye contact with you
- signalling your positive reinforcement sign once eye contact is made and treat your pet for their successful efforts. Treats can eventually be phased out once they’ve got the knack of a particular signal.
- ensuring each family member is trained to use consistent signals so not to confuse your pet. It’s highly recommended to use the service of a qualified trainer to better equip you, your family and of course, your precious fur baby with the tools to ensure you make the best of your pet’s disability.
Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson
Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.