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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Loss of hearing can occur with advancing age, just as it can in humans

Just like humans, old cats and dogs may lose their sense of hearing because of degeneration of the structures making up the sensory apparatus of the ear. If the loss of hearing progresses slowly the animal will accommodate and signs may not be noticed by the owner until the animal stops responding to external sounds. Loss of hearing may only affect one ear, or it may progress at different rates in both ears -  in which case owners may not notice the problem until it is very advanced.

Subtle signs of deafness include :

  • The animal may sleep soundly for longer
  • The animal appears to be inattentive, and may not respond when called
  • The animal stops obeying verbal commands
  • As deafness progresses the animal may lose the ability to be able to localise where a sound is coming from

Obviously loss of hearing can put the animal at risk if it has access to busy roads or railways because it may not hear danger coming. 

Loss of hearing due to senile change is permanent,  but other causes of deafness may be reversible, eg if it is associated with a disease that can be treated. Causes other than senile degeneration  include :

  • Inflammation or infection of the inner ear (otitis interna)
  • The toxic effects of some chemicals- including some antibiotics
  • Cancer

Veterinary advice to determine the underlying cause should be sought as soon as possible. 

Hearing aids can be fitted to deaf animals, but unfortunately hearing aids will only work if the underlying nervous connections to the brain are still intact, and special tests have to be performed by a skilled veterinarian before their use can be recommended.


Updated October 2013