Just like their human counterparts, some dogs eventually find their world falling quiet.
It can creep up on your dog over time, and it can be hard to pinpoint the moment it starts…but if you notice that your once alert and responsive dog has become less enthusiastic about toys and games, or appears confused and disoriented then it may be struggling with deafness.
Hearing loss is an inevitable part of aging. There are times however when deafness may be a symptom of underlying health issues, like infection or trauma.
Here we will discuss possible conditions, their symptoms, causes and what natural remedies are available to make a positive impact on your canine family member.
Symptoms of Hearing Loss in Dogs
Decreasing response to sounds or voices,
Being often startled & surprised when woken
Shaking head & ears repeatedly
A lack of response to commands
Deafness and hearing loss can occur in dogs for a variety of reasons.
Your dog’s ear has an intricate structure, consisting of soft tissues, nerves, cartilage and tiny bones that work together with the brain to collect, transform, conduct and interpret sound.
If damage or dysfunction to one or more of these sensitive areas occurs, then it can cause partial or complete loss of hearing.
Deafness can be classified into two types.
· Conductive deafness
· Sensorineural deafness
In conductive deafness, sounds cannot be conducted from the outside to the nerves in the inner ear.
In sensorineural deafness, nerve receptors cannot transmit sound signals from the ear to the brain - or the brain centers responsible for hearing cannot interpret the auditory data.
The two types of deafness from which your dog could suffer:
· Congenital Deafness
· Acquired Deafness
Congenital deafness means your dog is born deaf due to genetic inheritance, or defects in the part of the ear, or nervous system, involved with hearing.
Acquired deafness mean your dog is born with normal hearing and develops deafness through trauma, infection, blockage of the ear canal or geriatric nerve degeneration.
Congenital, geriatric, and trauma-related deafness is often permanent and not treatable. Similarly, sensorineural deafness is also untreatable.
The good news? Acquired deafness due to an infection or blocked ear canal, can be both temporary and treatable - and conductive deafness, caused by an outer or middle ear obstruction, may be corrected.
The most common causes of deafness
Heredity (and certain breeds of dog are predisposed to deafness)
A blocked ear canal
Did you know? Hereditary deafness in dogs is associated with particular genes.While the genetic cause has not yet been identified…dogs with blue eyes have a greater likelihood of hereditary deafness than brown-eyed dogs.
Deafness can also occur as a result of different types of ear infection, some of which are fairly common. Infections can be limited to one ear, or may affect both ears. An infection should be treated as quickly as possible to limit any ongoing damage. If you notice your dog has a rapid decrease in hearing, or is scratching at its ears, shaking its head, or in pain, take it to your vet immediately.
Some of the most frequent causes of ear infections include:
· Bacterial infection
· Yeast infections (see our article on treating a yeast infection)
· Other fungal infections such as Aspergillus Otomycosis
· Ear mites
· Polyps or tumors
· Foreign objects in the ear
Trauma or injury
This type of deafness can be caused by:
· Trauma to the hard portion of the temporal bone that surrounds the inner ear
· Loud noises (for example, gunfire)
· Conditions in which there is a loss or destruction of myelin (the fatty material that surrounds particular nerve cells)
· Drugs toxic to the ear (for example, aminoglycoside antibiotics or aspirin),
· Tumors involving the ear or brainstem,
· Degeneration of the cochlea in aged dogs.
Deafness in one ear, partial hearing loss, or both, is possible in some of these instances.
Blocked ear canal
Acquired deafness may result from a blockage of the external ear canal due to long term inflammation (otitis externa) or even excessive ear wax. It can also be the result of a ruptured or inflamed eardrum, or inner ear.
The good news? Hearing usually returns after these types of conditions are resolved.
Old age deafness
There are many causes of hearing loss in dogs, but for elderly dogs, the cause is often degenerative changes in the nerves found inside the ear.
This is similar to hearing loss in older people. The changes will likely be gradual, so symptoms will creep up slowly, and you may not notice right away.
A deaf dog out on its own is a vulnerable dog, particularly to threats like oncoming traffic.
For this reason, it is especially important to keep deaf dogs on a leash or in a fenced-in area.
If you notice any of the signs of deafness in your pet, see a vet for a diagnosis of the cause, and a plan for the best course of action.
If your dog's condition is treatable, there are some herbs that will have a beneficial impact.
Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis)
This herb is particularly good for purulent otitis media (infection and fluid in the middle ear), and acute or chronic inflammation of the middle ear (otitis externa). Its active ingredient is Berberine.
Barberry (Berberis Vulgaris)
Another source of Berberine and an alternative to Goldenseal. Barberry is highly effective for both yeast infections & inflammation of the middle ear, as it contains antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. It is also a strong anti-inflammatory & antioxidant.
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis Virginica)
This herb is also used for otitis externa. It should be applied sparingly.
Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus)
Flowers infused in oil can be used primarily to normalize earwax production, and to soothe an inflamed eardrum. It is often combined with garlic oil.
Your vet will probably have many suggestions to assist you with choosing the right natural treatment for your dog, and show you how to administer it correctly. And importantly - make sure any herbal treatment you embark on with your dog is prepared by a qualified practitioner.