Deaf Dog Q&A:
How Can I Tell If My Puppy Is Deaf?
Deaf Dog Q&A is a series of blog posts in which I answer readers, friends and followers questions about deaf dogs. Today’s topic is Deaf Dog Q&A: How Can I Tell If My Puppy Is Deaf?
If you have a burning question about your own deaf dog, if you need help because your senior dog is losing his hearing, if you need suggestions because you are about to adopt a deaf dog, or if you’re just curious about deaf dog training, safety or pretty much anything else related to deaf dogs, shoot me an email HERE.
I will answer every question and yours just might end of being used in this series! Don’t fret none… your name will not be published upon request. So, today’s topic is Deaf Dog Q&A: How Can I Tell If My Puppy Is Deaf?
Deaf Dog Q&A: How Can I Tell If My Puppy Is Deaf?
Hi Graffiti Dog,
I recently got a 4 month old puppy named Jasper. He’s really sweet and I love him with all my heart but he doesn’t always react to his name or other sounds, even loud ones. I’m beginning to suspect he may be deaf. How can I tell if Jasper is deaf?
Thanks for reaching out about Jasper! The sooner that you can determine if he is deaf (or not) is very important.
If he is deaf, knowing this early will help you be proactive. You can begin to learn how to train and communicate with Jasper with hand signs, learn about and implement deaf dog safety measures and other important deaf dog tips.
There are several ways you can test Jasper’s hearing at home- and the good news is that you don’t need to invest in any special tools or devices!
Before we get into the most common signs of deafness as well as tests that you can try at home, I’d like to mention a few important points about deafness in dogs.
About Deafness In Dogs
First, deafness can occur in one ear (unilateral) or in both ears (bilateral).
While bilateral deafness is fairly easy to determine, unilaterally deaf dogs are much harder to identify in the home because dogs compensate very well for the loss of hearing in one ear. These dogs often require an exam by a veterinarian, or more likely, a veterinary neurologist, for further testing to definitively diagnose unilitateral deafness.
But more on that in a minute….
Second, there are degrees of deafness and hearing loss. Some dogs may have limited hearing loss while others may be completely deaf.
In my opinion, if the hearing loss is significant enough that your dog doesn’t respond to voice commands or common household sounds, you should treat him as a deaf dog and proceed accordingly (using hand signs, implementing deaf dog safety precautions , etc.)
A dog that responds to the loud, vibrating sounds of a garbage truck rolling past your house but can’t hear his name is, for all intents and purposes, a deaf dog.
Signs Your Dog May Be Deaf
Here are some of the most common signs that your dog may be deaf.
- He doesn’t wake up in the morning when you do. This is especially true with deaf puppies.
- He sleeps very deep and doesn’t wake up when called.
- You have to touch your dog to wake him up.
- When you wake your dog up, he gets startled.
- When your dog is awake, he doesn’t respond to his name.
- Your dog doesn’t respond to everyday household sounds or loud noises.
- He doesn’t respond to squeaky or other toys that make fun noises. (Fun for dogs that is! Personally, one of the benefits of having deaf dogs is that we have precisely zero squeaky toys in our home and I don’t have
to listento cringe at the incessant “Squeak! Squeak! Squeak! of a rubber ducky being mauled!)
How to Tell if Your Puppy is Deaf
If Jasper exhibits any of the signs above or, if for some other reason, you suspect Jasper is deaf, here are a few at-home tests you can try.
There is additional medical diagnostic testing a veterinary neurologist can perform, but sit tight… I’ll get to that in a minute.
- Standing behind your dog so he can’t see you or otherwise know you are there, call his name loudly or make make some other loud verbal sound.
- Repeat this when he is sleeping.
- Again, standing out of sight, squeeze a squeaky toy, clap your hands, whistle, jingle your keys or snap your fingers. Make sure you aren’t standing too close to him. If you clap or snap just a few inches from his ears, he may seem to respond to the sound – but actually is responding to the vibration or bursts of air that clapping or snapping produce, not the actual sound!
- Standing a good distance from your dog, perhaps in an adjoining room such as your kitchen, bang on a pot or metal bowl with a spoon.
- Avoid stomping or dropping things on the floor, as this may cause your dog to respond to floor vibrations, not sound, depending on the type of flooring you have.
Medical Diagnostic Testing
If you are still unsure if your dog is deaf, you can have you dog examined by your vet. She or he may be able to help confirm whether your dog is deaf or not.
If your vet has any doubts, if you suspect your dog is unilaterally deaf and want to confirm this or if you just want to assess the degree of deafness, your veterinarian can refer you to a veterinary neurologist for BAER testing.
What Is BAER Testing?
BAER is an acronym for Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response. This is a short, 5-10 minute, non-invasive procedure that is the same test used to assess hearing in humans.
Without getting into a nitty-gritty, $10-dollar-word scientific description, during BAER testing, a click is directed into the ear through a foam insert earphone. Electrical activity in the inner ear and auditory pathways in the brain that are caused by those clicks are detected. Or not.
In addition to those foam inserts, very tiny needles- like those used in acupuncture- are inserted into the skin (subcutaneously). Sedation is rarely needed, and generally only if the dog resists gentle restraint by a trained and skilled veterinarian technician.
IMPORTANT: Based on my research, degree of deafness is based on the human range, not a dog’s. This means that some dogs will test as “deaf” but can still hear very high pitched noises. This reinforces my opinion that if your dog’s hearing loss is significant enough that he doesn’t respond to voice commands or common household sounds, you should treat him as a deaf dog.
While BAER testing may be recommended in some cases, such as unilateral deafness, in general, I think it is unnecessary. If your dog can hear that garbage truck but not his name or verbal communication, you’re gonna have to use hand signs to communicate. Welcome to the world of deaf dogs!
Thanks again, Mallory, for your question! Here are some blog posts that you may want to read for additional support or information. I also highly recommend checking out Deaf Dogs Rock for additional information about deaf dogs,
Some Further Reading on Deafness in Dogs
If you have any questions about deaf dogs,
please submit them here!