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Is My Dog Deaf? 7 Tell-Tale Signs Your Dog Has Hearing Issues

Is your senior dog suddenly not responding to his/her name? Are you noticing behavior that isn’t typical for your dog?

Sometimes deaf dogs will compensate for that fact that they can’t hear by barking loudly. In some situations they may not respond to verbal commands because they simply cannot hear them clearly enough.

Deafness isn’t just reserved for older dogs. Dogs can be born with congenital deafness. In some cases signs of a hearing problem are related to an underlying condition that can be fixed.

If you are concerned that your dog may have a hearing problem, this post will help.

There are difference causes of deafness in dogs. Some dogs suffer from partial hearing loss and others suffer permanent damage. The worst thing you can do is assume that deaf dogs are a normal part of aging.

This post will discuss the various conditions that can affect a pet’s hearing and what you can do about it.

Common Reasons for Deafness in Dogs

It’s upsetting to think our dog might be going deaf, but it’s important to remember that not all deafness is permanent.

It’s natural for older dogs to develop any number of age-related conditions. Yes, they can suffer partial or complete hearing loss, but there could be reasons behind it that can be reversed.

Signs of aging in dogs could include vision trouble, arthritis, obesity, diabetes, and any other number of secondary conditions.

The following list may help you identify signs of deafness in dogs along with the possible reason.

Congenital Hearing Loss

Congenital causes of hearing loss can include intrauterine infections, medications, liver disorders and sometimes exposure to toxic substances shortly after birth.

Genetic Defect

Unfortunately, when the cause of hearing loss is caused by a genetic defect, it’s usually not reversible. There also appears to be a connection between dogs with white coats and deafness. When deaf puppies are born, it’s usually due to a genetic cause.

Dog breeds that may be prone to genetic defects leading to deafness include:

  • Dalmatians
  • English setters
  • Australian shepherds
  • English cocker spaniels
  • Jack Russell terriers
  • German shepherds

Inner Ear Wax Build-Up

Allergies are a common cause of wax build-up in a dog’s ears. It won’t cause permanent hearing loss, but it can diminish the sharpness of a dog’s hearing. Wax build-up blocks the airflow and lead to an infection.

If your dog has allergies and you suspect wax build-up, ask the veterinarian for appropriate ways to clean his/her ears.

Inserting a cotton swab or your finger too deeply into the ear canal and cause serious injury.

Severe or Chronic Ear Infections

Chronic Otitis is a long-lasting ear infection that affects dogs. It causes itchy and painful ears. Pet owners may notice a strong odor coming from the ear canal.

Signs of ear infections in dogs include:

  • discharge from the ears
  • odor
  • pain
  • redness and swelling in the ear canal
  • itchiness
  • scabs or crusty spots in the ears
  • frequent shaking of the dog’s head


Tumors can develop in the external, middle, or inner ear canal. They can be benign or malignant (cancerous). In some cases, tumors may be the cause of chronic ear infections in dogs.

Parasitic Infections Like Ear Mites

Dogs can suffer from parasitic infections including ear mites, fleas, and ticks. Without treatment, they can cause damage to the ear and create infection.

Drug Toxicity

Ototoxic medications are those that can potentially damage hearing in pets. Although little is documented in domestic dogs, it’s thought that certain medications, including chemotherapy drugs, may play a role.

Injury to the Inner/Middle-Ear

Any number of injuries to the inner-middle ear can occur in dogs. Unfortunately, a ruptured eardrum can cause healing loss. However, it will usually heal with a few weeks without treatment.

Common causes of injury to the inner/middle ear drum of dogs include:

  • exposure to toxins
  • trauma
  • extremely loud noises
  • foreign objects in the ear canal
  • sudden change in air pressure


As dogs age, degenerative changes begin to affect the body. Your dog may begin to lose his/her sight, experience mobility problems, and may have a gradual loss of hearing over time.

Serious Signs of Deafness in Dogs You Should Know

Puppies that are born deaf quickly learn how to navigate their world. In addition, their pet parents adapt along with the dog. However, when a senior dog suddenly develops deafness, many things need to change in order to ensure your dog’s safety and quality of life.

The following things are signs that your pet’s hearing needs to be checked. Deaf animals (even those with partial hearing loss) may exhibit the following:

  • Behavioral changes
  • Unresponsive to everyday noise
  • Suddenly don’t respond to their name
  • Can be difficult to wake up from sleep
  • Sleep more often
  • Head shaking
  • Tend to be less active
  • Bark too much
  • Seemingly ignoring common commands.

Probably the first sign that a dog owner notices is the dog’s inability to hear or respond to his own name being called.

In the beginning, this can look suspiciously like a behavioral problem. You may even worry that your dog is regressing. For that reason, if you suspect there is anything unusual about your dog’s health or activity, be sure to bring him to a veterinarian.

injury to the inner ear can cause partial hearing loss in dogs

5 Tell-Tale Signs Your Dog Has Hearing Issues

#1. Change in Attentiveness

A not-so-obvious sign of deafness in dogs is inattentiveness.

#2. Unresponsive to Everyday Sounds

Try to talk to your dog when he/she is not facing you. If you’re too close to your dog, he’s going to sense your presence before you say a word. Try to perform this test from across the room. Does your dog acknowledge your voice?

If your dog doesn’t respond to your verbal cues, there’s a good chance he/she is losing their sense of hearing.

#3. Fails to Follow Verbal Commands

Dogs can be distracted, but most are ready and eager when you tell them it’s time to eat, play ball, or go to the park. If your dog seems confused, doesn’t respond, or seems distant, it might be a good idea to have him/her assessed by a veterinarian.

#4. Is Difficult to Wake Up From a Deep Sleep

A dog with hearing loss may seem to have trouble waking up. There are different reasons for this, but one may be caused by the lack of auditory stimuli.

#5. Easily Startled

A dog with even partial hearing loss may be easily startled. This is especially true if your dog is also experiencing changes in vision.

#6. Change in Personality

Dogs with hearing loss may experience a change in personality. Without the usual auditory cues they are used to, they can become disinterested in normal activity. Dogs with hearing loss may appear withdrawn or depressed.

#7. Barking Louder and More Often

If your ears have ever been plugged, you know what it sounds like when you try to talk. It’s as if you believe people can’t hear you. As a result, you speak louder than necessary. This is what happens to dogs who cannot hear properly. They want to communicate, but end up doing it louder than normal through loud barking.

Diagnosing Hearing Loss in Dogs

If you suspect your dog has any type of hearing loss, be sure to bring him to the veterinarian. In some cases, the veterinarian may be able to provide treatment that prevents the deafness from getting worse.

There are a few things the veterinarian may due to diagnose the problem. One test that may be used is called the Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response Test.

Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response Test

This test checks to see if your dog’s brain will respond to noise (like a clicking sound). This is a good way to see if a dog is deaf and by how much.

This test, normally done on humans, can only test the normal human range of hearing. In fact, some dogs may be diagnosed as being deaf although they can still hear very high-pitched sounds. That said, it is the most reliable method of determining deafness in dogs.

Breeders with dogs susceptible to congenital deafness may test their puppies at around 5 1/2k to 6 1/2 weeks of age.

Note that your veterinarian may need to refer your dog to a special testing center for this.

Physical Examination & History

Veterinarians frequently conduct a physical examination looking for clues of any injury, lumps, bumps, or bleeding. He/she will probably ask you a series of questions to determine whether your dog has been itching his ears, shaking his head, when the trouble hearing seemed to start, etc.

These questions can give the veterinarian clues as to what might be going on.


At the end of the day, you know your dog better than anybody.

Anything that seems unusual and continues for more than a day or two should be brought to your veterinarian’s attention. Sometimes, your dog could just be having an off-day. If you continue to notice unusual behavior, it could signify a problem with hearing.

Always bring your dog a veterinarian for anything that doesn’t seem right. Sometimes, as pet parents, we’re left second-guessing what we should do. Should we make an appointment or will the problem go away on its own?

If your schedule doesn’t allow you to access your veterinarian in a timely manner or you just want to speak to someone before making an appointment, consider calling Vetster. Vetster is an online service of top veterinarians who will talk to you about your dog’s problem.

It’s easy to use and a lot less expensive than going into a veterinarian clinic. Yes, you may have to go to see the veterinarian eventually, but a quick phone call can really ease your mind.

Quick note: I sometimes share affiliate links with my readers because I think a product or course is really awesome. If you decide to click on the link and purchase something, I’ll earn a little extra money.

That money goes towards keeping this blog up and running (it’s not free!) and I thank you in advance for that.

Vetster is easy to use. Just download the app and click on Make an Appointment. Don’t worry! You won’t be charged at that point. All that does is open a world of veterinarians to choose from. You can search by location, discipline, etc.

Once you find the veterinarian you’d like to speak to, you can make the appointment from there. Every veterinarian offers different services at difference price points. You get to choose the one that works for you.

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Genetics of Deafness in Dogs – Louisiana State University

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Mount Sinai Health Library – BAER

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