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Deafness is quite common in dogs, particularly in older dogs and dogs with a white hair coat and blue eyes. Deafness refers to a complete or partial loss of hearing. This loss can be temporary or permanent and it may affect one or both ears.

Temporary or transient deafness is most often due to buildup of wax or debris in the ear canals, while permanent deafness can have a number of causes, including untreated ear infections, injury, drug toxicity, tumors, congenital (birth) defects and old age.

Deafness present at birth can be inherited or result from toxic or viral damage to the developing unborn puppy. Merle and white coat colors are associated with deafness at birth in dogs and other animals.

Dog breeds commonly affected include the Dalmatian, Bull Terrier, Australian Heeler, Catahoula, English Cocker Spaniel, Parson Russell Terrier, and Boston Terrier. The list of affected breeds (now approximately 100) continues to expand and may change due to breed popularity and elimination of the defect through selective breeding.

Causes of Deafness in Dogs

Some puppies are born deaf, which is known as congenital deafness. Other dogs can go deaf from a variety of causes, ranging from chronic ear infections or injuries to drug toxicity and old age.

Symptoms of Hearing Loss in Dogs

Symptoms of deafness include little or no response to sound:

  • No response to squeaking toys
  • No response to clapping
  • Difficulty responding to snapping fingers behind the head
  • No response to doorbells, loud noises
  • No response when called by name
  • Little or no response when you enter the room
  • No response to other dogs barking
  • Difficult to wake
  • Startled when woken
  • Excessive barking

Testing Your Dog For Deafness

Firstly, you need to have your dog examined by your veterinarian to rule out any medical problems that can be treated (e.g. ear infection, blocked ear canal etc).

The only way to know for sure if your dog is deaf is with a BAER test (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response). This is a non-invasive, painless test that detects electrical activity in the cochlea and auditory pathways in the brain. Since it requires specialised equipment, the BAER test can only performed by specialist veterinarians.

Treatment of Deafness in Dogs

It is unlikely that there will be a treatment to help resolve the deafness in your pet. The most common causes – a genetic defect or age-related degeneration – have no appropriate treatment. It is only some of the unusual causes such as disease blocking the passage of sound through the external ear canal from infection, or a mass that can be removed by an operation that can be helped by treatment.


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