Partial or total hearing loss is an invisible disability that’s hard to detect in pets. Upon closer inspection, some owners might notice their pet doesn’t react to the doorbell or verbal commands. When you approach the pet from behind, they might startle at your touch. These are all signs a pet has developed hearing loss to some degree.
A hearing impairment can be present at birth or occur later in life. Some pets are born deaf in one or both ears, while others experience sudden hearing loss from an injury or ear infection. No matter the cause, hearing-impaired pets need help from their owners to navigate the world and achieve a higher quality of life. If your pet has lost their hearing, use these tips to help them.
Supervise your pet while outdoors
Going outside can pose many dangers for a hearing-impaired pet. They won’t be able to hear oncoming traffic or the snarl of someone else’s dog. If your pup runs off without you, they won’t respond to your verbal commands to come back. Given these risks to their safety, a hearing-impaired pet should always remain under your supervision while spending time outdoors.
If you have a hearing-impaired dog, always keep them on a leash during walks. Stay close to them at dog parks and only let them off the leash in confined areas. It’s a good idea to supervise your dog at home, too, even if you have a fenced yard. Inspect enclosures to detect any potential escape routes and fix any holes or loose planks, if necessary.
Hearing cats are used to roaming outside without supervision. However, hearing-impaired cats should stick to a mostly indoor lifestyle. Some cats with hearing impairments are still able to enjoy the outdoors by learning to walk on a harness and leash. This allows the cat to enrich their mind by safely exploring their outdoor environment.
Communicate by engaging other senses
Hearing-impaired pets won’t respond to your voice. If their back is facing you, the pet might not even notice that you’ve entered the room. Touching a hearing-impaired pet from behind can startle them and increase their anxiety. Alert the pet to your presence by stomping the floor, flashing the overhead lights or approaching them head-on. If your pet is asleep, tap the surface they’re sleeping on or hold your hand up to their nose so they catch your scent.
Cat owners can also get their feline friend’s attention with a laser pointer. Point the laser on the floor in front of the hearing-impaired cat. Move the laser until the cat turns around and sees you. Laser pointers are also helpful tools for teaching routines to hearing-impaired cats. Use the laser to guide your cat to their food bowl at the same time each day until they learn the feeding schedule.
Teach old commands in new ways
Hand signals and body language are key to training a hearing-impaired pet. Dogs that were born deaf will adapt more easily to hand signals than a dog that suddenly lost their hearing due to an injury or ear infection. However, dogs can adapt to new training techniques at any point in their lives. The hand signals you use for each command don’t matter as long as you’re consistent.
Pet parents can even teach hearing-impaired cats to respond to certain commands. When you want the cat to approach, crouch down and either hold out your hand or pat the floor next to you. Express disapproval by standing tall and waving your arms in their line of sight.
Adapt your pet’s living space
Pets don’t need their sense of hearing to enjoy the world around them. Hearing-impaired pets can lead very enriching lives when their owners set them up for success. Enhance play time by offering toys with bright, eye-catching colors. Pets with hearing impairments rely on their sense of touch, so purchase toys covered in fun textures. Save bells, squeakers and anything else that makes noise for your hearing pets.
Cats, in particular, have different sleeping habits when they live with a hearing impairment. They feel safer sleeping in high perches; this helps them better assess their territory for threats. Hearing-impaired cats also prefer napping spots near walls so household members can’t sneak up behind them. Keep these preferences in mind to help your cat feel more comfortable in the home.
A pet’s hearing impairment can be hard to accept at first. Whether the hearing loss is new or present at birth, pet parents might grieve the fact that their furry companion can’t experience life the way others do. But hearing-impaired pets can do anything a healthy pet can do, and their disability places no limit on how much they love their owners!