There are a wide number of reasons why a pet might become deaf and while some have to do with age, many do not. Pets can be deaf from birth due to a physical abnormality or genetic issue (in some breeds certain white coat genes are linked to deafness) while younger pets can develop hearing loss in response to ear infections, certain viruses (like canine distemper), waxy build up or trauma.
For senior pets, some of the most common types of hearing loss seen are the result of changes to the nervous system or physical structures of the ear, exposure to medication or chronic ear infections. Like humans, as animals age they experience age-related changes in their bodies. Age-related hearing loss is also referred to as presbycusis and will normally affect both ears. These age-related hearing changes are normally the result of changes to the auditory nerve (the nerve that carries signals from the ear to the brain), the loss of the tiny hair cells that move in the ear as your hear (stereocilia) or a change in the function of either the inner ear bones or the eardrum.
In addition to these age-related changes, senior pets may also experience hearing loss due to medications. Certain types of chemotherapy, antibiotics and diuretic drugs have been known to cause hearing loss. It is important to note, however, that is your veterinarian is prescribing a medication that may cause hearing loss it would normally be in response to a far more serious condition and you should not stop giving your pet the medication without first speaking with your vet. Another common reason for hearing loss in senior pets can be an obstruction (blockage) in the ear canal. This could be the result of scar tissue from chronic ear infections or it may be caused by a build-up of wax and fur in the ear canal. All cases of suspected hearing loss should be seen by your vet as early as possible so your vet can examine your pet and determine what, if any, treatment is needed.
So what do you do if your cherished friend loses their hearing with age? Here are a few tips…