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Deafness in Animals

Wheaten Terrier PortraitDeafness in cats and dogs can be either conductive deafness or nerve deafness. Conduction deafness can be caused by trauma, ear infections, or diseases that affect the outer or middle ear. Nerve deafness is either acquired, as in geriatric pets, or congenital, as in white cats with blue eyes or dogs that are merle, piebald, or white in color.

These animals fail to respond to normal everyday noises. In older animals sometimes making louder noises or lowering the timbre of your voice will help.

There is a test to confirm deafness, called a BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) test, performed by a neurologist. This test records the electrical activity of the brain in response to sound stimuli. Most owners know when their pet is having hearing problems and adjust very well to having a deaf animal.

Deaf cats and dogs can live normal lives with their owners with a few adjustments:

Cats that are deaf seem to require very little extra care, as many cats seem to sleep 23 hours a day. Cats, like dogs, should not initially be touched to be awakened from sleep, as they can be startled very easily and may bite. Usually by clapping close by or tapping your foot on the floor, the animal can feel the vibration and will respond. You will need to let them know when is time to eat and may need to feed them separately. Also, the other cats may react differently to a deaf cat, so watch initial interactions very carefully. Usually the other animals seem to realize there is something different about them and leave them alone.

Deaf dogs can be trained much the same way as hearing dogs. They need to be trained with voice and hand commands. Keep the training sessions short and always finish with an activity that they enjoy so they learn to like their lessons. Deaf dogs respond very well to facial expressions and vibrations, such as clapping. Keep an ID that indicates that he is deaf on your dog at all times. This will help potential rescuers deal with his hearing problem and help him get home if he gets lost.