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Hearing Problems & Deaf Dogs

The causes for hearing problems or deafness in dogs are similar to the cause for human hearing problems. Some dogs have a congenital defect that causes deafness. This is more common for white or pigmentless dogs, though possible in any dog. Some dog’s hearing diminishes with age, and sometimes hearing is damaged by loud noises or a bad reaction to medicines or anesthesia. Excellent hearing is so strongly associated with dogs that many have misunderstandings about canine hearing problems. Dogs born deaf often adapt wonderfully. As with people, if one sense is diminished often others become more acute. These dogs are likely to develop a strong sense of vibrations and changes in light. There are many misperceptions of the attitude of deaf dogs. When trying to figure out the personality and demeanor of a puppy researching its breed and background is likely to give you more clues than judging the dog on its ability to hear. There are some special considerations for deaf dogs. Training needs to be done with hand signals instead of verbal commands, and it is even more important with a deaf dog to keep them either on a leash or in a contained area for safety. However, these aren’t dramatic adaptations and deaf dogs can make wonderful pets. One of the most common misconceptions about deaf dogs is that they are aggressive. Some think because a deaf dog may become startled it will be angry and lash out. Particularly for dogs that are born deaf this is a distortion. A deaf dog is just as likely to be aggressive or mild mannered as any other dog. Also, they won’t necessarily startle easily.

One place this misconception may come from is some may have experienced this with older dogs that are starting to lose their hearing. This is a different situation. Older dogs may snap when startled or awakened suddenly. This is not always strictly hearing related. First, these dogs are adjusting to the loss of hearing; therefore this is a new unexpected experience. Also, older dogs may be experiencing other problems besides hearing loss. Again, similar to humans, older dogs may be encountering memory problems that make them disoriented creating a scary situation. If you consider the wide range of ways older people deal with hearing loss and other age related difficulties, it’s easier to understand a dogs reaction to hearing loss can vary greatly. With dogs whose hearing is diminishing it is important to have patience and be comforting. There will be a period of adjustment and be careful not to awaken a dog suddenly, or make contact with them unexpectedly. Most dogs will adjust, but need some time and consideration.



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