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What you need to know about hearing loss in dogs

Did you know that cats can hear from 55 Hz to 79 kHz and dogs cover a range from 67 Hz to 44 kHz. In comparison, the average human can only hear from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. These numbers show that animals hear better than we do. The dog also has selectively functioning hearing. If it is asleep, it will not be disturbed by anything unless it hears the food can or the owner calling.

This is possible because the dog's sensory cells are not directly connected to the ears, but to special nerve pathways. The dog can switch these on and off as desired. Dogs hear particularly low and particularly high tones. So if the dog doesn't hear, it doesn't really do any good to yell at him. It makes more sense to give a soft command at a higher pitch. Then your dog can perceive the sound better. 

In total, 17 ear muscles help the dog locate sounds. The dog can independently align its ears accordingly to be able to capture the source of a sound well. Dogs hear their owner therefore, even if this is not in line of sight. The good hearing therefore benefits both dog and owner. But what to do if the dog can no longer hear its owner?

Equally animals can lose their hearing. Then you need to find a new way to communicate with the animal. This can happen through signs or through a hearing aid for the dog. But are there also suitable hearing aids for the beloved four-legged friend?

Symptoms of hearing loss in dogs

Your dog can not tell you when he can not hear you. After all, he doesn't ask and can't ask to repeat anything. But there are other ways to tell if your dog is having trouble hearing. A pretty sure sign of hearing loss is that your dog doesn't respond to everyday sounds. For example, if the dog simply ignores the favorite squeaky toy, her calling, or the house bell. Your dog may be startled when you wake him up because he didn't hear you come to him. Also, dogs with hearing loss tend to bark more often. This is because the dog can no longer hear itself when it barks. 

Causes of hearing loss in dogs

Animals also lose their hearing when the ear is damaged. This can happen due to damage to the tiny hair follicles and nerve endings inside the ears. In older animals, the nerves degenerate and some animals have had bad nerves in their ears since birth. Tumors or tears in the eardrum can also cause the damage. Frequent inflammation in the ear or trauma causes hearing loss over a long period of time. Canine distemper virus can be particularly damaging to dogs' hearing. This can be prevented by vaccination. 

Treatment of hearing loss in humans

The majority of hearing loss cannot be reversed. However, scientists are researching hard to regenerate the number of hair follicles. Gerbils hear similarly to humans, so experiments on hearing loss are being conducted in the mice. Any breakthrough in gerbils could also be a breakthrough for humans. 

Researchers have already been able to inject stem cells from the animals into immature neurons, restoring them. Hearing could be restored by up to 46% percent over the course of 10 weeks. Follicle replacement helps in 15% of hearing losses caused by neuropathy. Such success has not yet been seen in other types of hearing loss. Animals with poorer hearing adapt to their environment accordingly. The loss of their hearing does not affect them as much. Their other senses compensate for the hearing loss. 

Hearing aid for the dog - does it pay off?

For hearing loss in dogs, a hearing aid is also an option to compensate. A doctor at Aubery University developed the hearing aid for the dog based on a human hearing aid. He then used a plastic tube and foam plugs to connect the device to the dog's ear canal. Not all dogs would tolerate a foreign object in the ear. Because they can be rejected, hearing aids for dogs are not as common. Doctors are currently researching a cochlear implant for dogs. But they are expensive and there is no guarantee you will work.

Not every dog accepts the hearing aid in the ear. Also, the hearing aid only makes sense if the dog can still hear in one ear. In any case, it is necessary to make an individual for the dog. This is due to the fact that the auditory canal of humans and dogs differ significantly. The dog has a vertical and a horizontal ear canal. The hearing aid is covered with a foam rubber and then adapts to the ear canal. 

To insert such a hearing aid, however, the dog must be able to be sedated or anesthetized. A dog does not understand that it should be kept still. That is why the use of a hearing aid for the dog is a medical intervention. In this case, you should weigh whether the hearing aid will actually benefit or just cause stress to the dog. This is also why hearing aids for the dog can be an expensive investment, as it is not always possible to tell in advance whether it will pay off. Smaller dogs often accept the foreign body better than larger dogs. 

With a lot of patience and training, you can also teach the dog sign language.  Therefore, the step to hearing aids in dogs is not always recommended. A dog with a handicap can be challenging, but the dog itself often copes well with its handicap.

The situation is different for expensively trained police or tracker dogs. In this case, a hearing aid can make sense so that the dog remains operational. However, like humans, the dog needs time to get used to the device. It can be a long road before the dog hears the commands again or jumps up excitedly at the food can again. 

Cost of a dog hearing aid 

Trials of in-the-ear hearing aids have shown success in studies of dogs. If you suspect your pet has poor hearing, contact a veterinarian. He or she can then plan the next steps for a hearing aid.