A number of breeds of dogs, mostly those breeds that have the merle, piebald or white coats, are prone to deafness. However, dogs that are subjected to frequent loud noise can suffer from hearing loss the same as people. This is referred to as noise-induced hearing loss.
A study conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign by Dr. Kari Foss, found that working dogs such as police, sniffer and gun dogs are a strong candidate to suffer from hearing loss. According to Foss,
“Most commonly, noise-induced hearing loss results from damage to the hair cells in the cochlea that vibrate in response to sound waves,” Foss said. “However, extreme noise may also damage the eardrum and the small bones within the inner ear, called the ossicles.”
The most common signs that a dog is losing his ability to hear are when the dog fails to respond to commands, or they sleep through noise that would normally wake them up. They may bark excessively or make unusual sounds. Sometimes a dog may have a hearing loss in one ear only. If that is the situation, the dog may hear sounds but not be able to tell where it came from.
The researchers recommended that dogs who must work around loud noise wear hearing protection that is designed for dogs. It is also possible that dogs can lose hearing from ear infections and illnesses and as they age.
If a potential dog owner is going to purchase a breed where deafness is a problem, they must be sure that the breeder has done a BAER test to determine if the puppy is deaf or not.