What Causes Hearing Loss in Dogs?

The last full week of September is National Deaf Dog Awareness Week. Veterinarians shed light on the causes, challenges, benefits, and how to spot a dog experiencing hearing loss.

Deaf dogs make great pets who are trainable through visual cues and some even compete in dog sports. Read on to learn what causes hearing loss and signs your dog may be experiencing it.

Photo: Pixabay

What Causes Deafness in Dogs?

American Kennel Club shares that deafness in dogs is either inherited or acquired. “It is estimated that about 5 to 10 percent of dogs in the United States suffer from deafness, either in one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).” There are many reasons why a dog may go deaf in one or both ears.

Congenital Hearing Loss

– Dogs with white, piebald and merle pattern coats have a higher chance of being born with congenital hearing loss. “The gene that causes Merle or Piebald coats affects eye color and skin pigment, usually presenting as mottled white patches of fur and blue eyes. Unpigmented skin in the inner ear can lead to nerve-ending atrophy and subsequent deafness in puppies during their early weeks of life,” states Longwood Veterinary Center.

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It is inherited, irreversible, and spotted between 3-6 weeks of age.

VCA Animal Hospitals shared some dog breeds commonly affected by deafness from pigmentation:

  • Australian Shepherds
  • Dalmatians
  • Great Danes
  • Welsh Corgis

Ear Wax Buildup

A buildup of ear wax can cause temporary hearing loss. It can occur due to narrow ear canals found in dog breeds like Dalmatians and Boxers or dogs with hairy ears.

Ear Infection

Chronic ear infections can lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss in one or both ears. Some medicine used to treat infections can also damage the inner ear (rare) if there is a hole in the ear drum. It is called ototoxicity.

Photo: Pixabay

Trauma to Inner Ear

Damage to the sensitive inner ear may occur from physical trauma. While not common, a blow to the head or ear can result in hearing loss in dogs.

Loud Noises

Prolonged exposure to loud noises over the dog’s life can also result in hearing loss known as presbycusis. Military, police, and hunting dogs are impacted the most. The loud noises damage the hair cells in the inner ear which can cause hearing loss.


Dogs manage to get into all sorts of things that they shouldn’t, so it should come as no surprise that foreign bodies in the ear canal can also cause temporary hearing loss. Once the object is removed, and if no damage has been done to the ear, the dog’s hearing will return to normal.

Photo: Pixabay


Hearing loss due to “old age” occurs slowly over time but is irreversible. But don’t worry, dogs adjust to the disability and are able to live normal lives.

Cognitive disorder

This is also referred to as “doggy Alzheimer’s”. This is also related to aging as senile dogs may show signs of hearing loss. Dr. Shawn Messonnier with Paws and Claws Animal Hospital states, “I first ‘discovered’ this condition, which is somewhat related to aging, almost 30 years ago when I first graduated from veterinary school. I noticed a number of aged dogs acting “senile”. Many of these senile dogs also had hearing loss and were hypothyroid.”

Photo: Pixabay

There are several causes for hearing loss in dogs. The best way to care for your dog is to have them examined by a vet to discover the cause and treat accordingly.

Signs Your Dog May Be Going Deaf

Some dogs are born deaf, and it can be difficult to tell at first with rambunctious puppies. One way to test is with a squeaky toy or another high-pitched noise.

Photo: Pixabay

Older dogs, just like people, may experience hearing loss. Dr. Kathryn Winger, assistant professor of veterinary neurology at the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, shared with PetMD common signs dog experience when they are going through hearing loss.

  • Lack of response to being called
  • No reaction to loud noises like the doorbell or other animals or people
  • Being easily startled or harder to arouse
  • Not interacting normally with littermates (for puppies)
  • Being extra rambunctious or vocal

If your dog (no matter their age) does not respond to normal sounds, tilts or shakes its head frequently, or is displaying any of the above signs, make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Deaf Dogs Up For Adoption

While deaf dogs face unique challenges, they are highly adaptable and make amazing pets. Check out Deaf Dogs Rock. The inspiration behind the nonprofit was a deaf boxer named Nitro. This year alone, the nonprofit has helped save 145 deaf dogs from kill shelters. In addition to finding homes for deaf dogs through rescues across the U.S., Deaf Dogs Rock helps educate people on how to live with deaf dogs. Their mission is “to bring awareness to how much fun living with a deaf dog can be”.

Learn more about deaf dogs looking for homes by clicking here.

Share this with your friends and family in observance of National Deaf Dog Awareness Week.

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