Hearing Loss (Deafness) in Dogs

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Last updated on
3 min read

Key takeaways

Deafness in dogs describes hearing loss, which may be present from birth or develop afterwards (acquired).

  • This symptom can affect both ears (bilateral) or one ear (unilateral)
  • Conditions which affect the cochlea (hearing organ inside the ear) cause deafness, and include poisoning, cancers, injuries, and infections
  • Conditions leading to deafness are unlikely to be fatal, but loss of hearing still affects a dog’s life
  • Accounting for lost hearing through training and management changes helps a deaf dog stay safe, and live a positive quality of life
  • Diagnostics include a physical examination, ear examination, hearing tests, bloodwork, and BAER test
  • Treatment depends on the underlying cause
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A closer look: Hearing Loss (Deafness) in Dogs

While most causes of deafness are unlikely to be fatal, others (such as cancers) are more serious. Dogs showing signs of hearing loss benefit from prompt veterinary examination.

Most deaf dogs can live a healthy and happy life, but may require different training methods and management to compensate for lost hearing. Dogs with impaired hearing can be more easily startled, potentially leading to aggressive reactions, and are more at risk of dangers they cannot hear, such as passing motorists.

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Possible causes

Dogs are either born deaf, or develop hearing loss during their lifetime.

Most dogs that are born deaf have hereditary deafness, which is genetic. Hereditary deafness is the most common cause of hearing loss in dogs. Some breeds are more susceptible to than others, including those with white-pigmented fur, such as white, merle, or piebald coat colors.

Acquired deafness develops after birth.

Risk factors

Deafness can be partial, or complete. Dogs with partial deafness can still hear but have difficulty with certain sound ranges or frequencies. Dogs with complete deafness cannot hear anything at all in the affected ear.

Deafness can affect both ears (bilateral) or just one (unilateral).

Testing and diagnosis

Diagnostics include:

  • Physical examination
  • Hearing tests
  • Bloodwork
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) test

Diagnosis of deafness can be difficult in dogs, particularly in cases where only one ear is affected, or there is still partial hearing present.

Treatment depends on the underlying cause. In cases where dogs are born deaf, there is typically no treatment available.

Similar symptoms

Deafness is self-evident and not likely to be mistaken for other symptoms.

Associated symptoms

Most dogs are born deaf, and may show no other symptoms associated with deafness. In cases where hearing loss develops over time, additional symptoms may be present.


George M. Strain , PhD - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual
George M. Strain , PhD - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual
Emily Bayne - Writing for Wag!

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