World Hearing Day: Understanding Pet Ear Problems and Deafness

The 3rd of Mach 2024 marks World Hearing day but it’s not just humans who can suffer with hearing loss. Vet staff at leading charity PDSA are highlighting the importance of recognising that our pets’ delicate ears are often susceptible to problems, which, if left untreated, can result in long-term issues and even deafness.
PDSA Vet Nurse, Nina Downing, said: “Loss of hearing can be a worrying experience for pets (and their owners), but fortunately, with the right support they can continue to live a happy and healthy life.
How can my pet become deaf?
“Most ear problems in our pets are easily treated, but occasionally, they can lead to long-term issues and potentially, deafness.
“Deafness can result from a variety of things, such as a serious ear infections, inherited deafness, foreign bodies or trauma. While ear problems are common in both cats and dogs, some breeds can be more likely to suffer with ear infections due to their heavy, hairy flapped ears, their head shape or the amount of hair inside their ears.
Signs to look out for
“There are signs that your pet could be having ear troubles – they may shake, scratch or rub their head more frequently, suffer from red, swollen and itchy ears, or have a build-up of wax and in extreme cases pus. The root cause of an ear infection can be anything from a bacterial or yeast growth, an allergy, foreign body such as a grass seed, injury or even a parasite such as ear mites.
“If caught in time, many ear infections can be easily treated by your vet. While less common, some pets can suffer with chronic ear infections, which can cause long-term problems and may result in surgery in worst cases, which can have the knock-on effect of hearing loss.
Caring for your deaf pet 
“Some pets may naturally become deaf with old age, but there are many ways we can support them continue to live a happy, healthy life as their needs change:

Deaf pets won’t hear you approaching as they used to, so take care not to startle them. Always warn friends and family that your pet can’t hear, advise them to only approach your pet from the front so they can see them coming.
Deaf pets are likely to feel vulnerable, as they can’t rely on all of their senses, so make sure that your pet is given the opportunity to approach you and visitors first, rather than the other way around.
Be careful to never startle your pet and never disturb them when they are sleeping, as this can make them feel anxious and will prevent them from relaxing completely when resting.
Whenever you leave the house, it’s a good idea to make sure your pet can see you leaving whenever possible, so they don’t panic when they can’t find you.
Without verbal cues it can be hard to get your pet’s attention but there are training techniques, such as hand signals, that can help build visual communication.

“These lifestyle changes can take time to get used to, but try to remember that the bond between you and your pet will never change – it will only become stronger.”
PDSA is the UK’s largest vet charity providing a vital service for pets across the UK whose owners struggle to afford treatment costs for their sick and injured pets. For many vulnerable pets, PDSA is there to help when there is nowhere else for their owners to turn. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information.
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