Hearing Aids for Dogs and Dog Hearing Protection
Most pet owners know that their dogs’ hearing is quite different from their own. Maybe you’ve noticed their ears perking up long before you hear a car pulling in the driveway, or how they can predict a thunderstorm when it’s still sunny outside. All of these are signs of your dog’s incredible hearing! There are even sounds only dogs can hear.
Understanding how dog hearing works is an important part of your responsibility as a pet parent. To take proper care of your beloved canine, learn about dog hearing protection and know what signs to look for that indicate your pet might need hearing aids for dogs.
What You Need to Know About Your Dog’s Hearing
There is a lot to learn about your dog’s hearing, and understanding it can help you protect your pet’s sensitive ears and know when they might need hearing aids for dogs. The most important things to understand about a dog’s hearing are:
- The differences between dog and human hearing
- How far away your dog can hear
- What kind of sounds only dogs can hear
How a Dog’s Hearing Is Different from a Human’s
Our domesticated dogs are descended from wolves, and that evolution forms their hearing. Because wolves need to hear small sounds to hunt their prey, our pets have that same remarkable ability.
Dogs can not only hear quieter sounds than humans, but they can also hear very fine differences between sounds. For example, a musician could play two notes that might sound the same to a human, but a dog would hear two different sounds.
A dog’s ability to move its ears around also contributes to its hearing. While humans have no way to change their sound experience besides moving their heads, dogs can adjust how they receive a sound to hear it better with just a flip of their ear.
How Far Can Dogs Hear?
How far dogs can hear will depend on a lot of factors, including their breed and the type of sound. Of course, they will be able to hear louder sounds that are farther away.
Studies have shown that dogs can hear as far as a quarter-mile away, sometimes farther! Because dogs can hear lower-volume sounds than humans, they can naturally hear things from farther away. When a sound is farther away, it can be so quiet that a human doesn’t hear it, but a dog still can.
Sounds Only Dogs Can Hear
High-frequency sounds are higher-pitched, and dogs can hear much higher pitches than humans, so there are some sounds only dogs can hear. Human hearing stops registering sounds at about 20,000 hertz (a measure of frequency), and dogs can hear much higher pitches, even when those pitches are quiet. If you’ve ever blown a dog whistle around your pooch, you’ve seen this fact in action.
Invented by Francis Galton to test human hearing (which is why dog whistles are sometimes called Galton whistles), most dog whistles blow a pitch between 23,000 and 54,000 hertz. Some people use them for dog training. Dog whistles won’t hurt your dog’s ears any more than a regular whistle hurts your ears, as long as they are used responsibly (i.e., not blown for too long or directly next to your pet’s ears).
Tips for Dog Hearing Protection
With this new information in mind about your dog’s sensitive hearing, you might be wondering how to protect their ears from noises that could hurt them. People who have dogs that work around guns in law enforcement or hunting have spent a lot of time on this topic.
Especially if you can’t hear the high-frequency noises that might bother your dog, it’s essential to employ these good practices for dog hearing protection:
- Watch your dog for signs of noise discomfort
- Minimize exposure to loud noises
- Practice good ear hygiene with your pet
- Consider ear protection like muffs, plugs, and headbands
Pay Attention to Your Dog’s Behavior
One of the only ways to know if a sound is bothersome or painful for your dog is by watching their behavior. Their fear of the vacuum is probably appropriate – it might be making a high-pitched sound that hurts their ears.
When they try to escape a sound, let them do so and offer them other options when something noisy happens. For example, let your dog inside when the mower runs and let them outside when using a blender.
Dogs know when a sound isn’t good for them, and they will escape it if they can. Making sure that your dog always has another place to go will ensure that they can take care of themselves and keep their hearing healthy and strong.
Minimize Exposure to Loud Noises
Even hunters and law enforcement agents are careful about their canine’s exposure to loud noises. Limit your pet’s experience of these sounds as much as possible by leaving them at home for super loud events like concerts. Even if they are well-behaved, it’s likely not good for their hearing to be in places that have repetitive and loud noise.
Hygiene Is Important for Dog Hearing
The physical health of your dog’s ears is a factor in their hearing as well. Make sure to keep their ears clean and dry. Consult your veterinarian if you notice any substance that seems abnormal in your pet’s ears. There are many tiny crevices and pockets in a dog’s ears where bacteria and dirt can build up and cause ear infections, which can damage your dog’s hearing.
Use Earplugs or Earmuffs Designed for Dogs
Many unique products exist to protect your dog’s hearing. If your dog has to be in a loud environment, consider purchasing a pair of earmuffs or earplugs to protect their hearing. They also make sound-reducing headbands that can be helpful.
Bonus: they also make your pooch look like an adorable babushka!
Is It Time to Consider Hearing Aids for Dogs?
If you think your dog is losing its hearing, you and your pet might benefit from hearing aids for dogs. It might be surprising to learn that this technology, which is so common among humans, can also be used for canines!
If your dog starts showing the signs of the hearing loss outlined below, you might want to consider hearing aids for dogs. But hearing aids don’t work for all types of hearing loss, so it’s also important to understand what causes the loss and how canine hearing aids work.
How to Tell if a Dog Is Losing Its Hearing
Your dog regularly responds to sounds in his or her everyday life. The best way to identify hearing loss is by noticing that your dog isn’t responding the same way to sound signals. Maybe they seem less nervous during a fireworks display or don’t jump up to greet you the same way.
Other signs of dog hearing loss include:
- Excessive barking.
- Becoming jumpy or easily startled.
- Avoiding social situations with dogs and other people.
What Causes Dog Hearing Loss
Hearing loss happens when the tiny hair cells in your dog’s ears are overstimulated. This can cause those little hairs to die, and once they die, they can’t be brought back to life, causing hearing loss and, ultimately, deafness.
Some dogs are genetically prone to hearing loss because of deformations in their ear canal. Hearing loss can also be caused by an ear infection, tumor, or wax blockage.
Things to Know About Hearing Aids for Dogs
There are no commercially available canine hearing aids. Still, if you have a diagnostic test performed by your veterinarian and inquire about hearing aids, you may be able to get some for your pet. It’s important to know that these devices won’t return your pet’s hearing to its full strength, and they also require a lot of adjustment and training. Furthermore, hearing aids for dogs can be very expensive – as much as $5000.
Dog Hearing Protection Is Your Responsibility
Whether or not you choose to use hearing aids for dogs, your canine’s hearing health is your responsibility. Follow the best practices for dog hearing protection by keeping your pooch away from loud, repetitive noises whenever possible and using protective equipment like earmuffs or earplugs whenever possible. It gives your pet joy to hear you call his name, so make sure he can do so for as long as possible!