Dear Daisy Dog
I think Morgan, my 12-year-old Labrador retriever, is going deaf, because he can’t locate the source of most sounds and, if he doesn’t see me approaching, he’s startled when I touch him. Can he be fitted with a hearing aid?
A hearing aid probably won’t help Morgan, because age-related deafness in dogs is usually caused by loss of nerve function, a problem that isn’t helped by a hearing aid.
However, a hearing aid that amplifies sound is helpful for deafness due to loss of sound conduction from the external to internal ear.
Even if that’s Morgan’s problem, though, I wouldn’t advise a hearing aid, because most dogs fitted with the devices shake them from their ears and eat them within days to months of getting them.
Morgan has lots of company. Hearing is impaired in half of all dogs by 12 years of age, and in 97 percent by age 16.
We dogs lose our high-frequency hearing last. So when my older brothers started to go deaf, Mom called them with a dog whistle.
Once they lost all hearing, she used hand signals. Now is a good time to start teaching Morgan standard dog obedience hand signals and even some American Sign Language.
To get his attention in the house, stomp on the floor. Outside, shine a flashlight toward his face.
For more information on how to manage his hearing loss, visit www.deafdogs.org/training.
By the way, there’s a bright side to hearing loss. For most of his life, my brother Kane was afraid of thunderstorms. Once deafness set in, he remained blissfully relaxed amidst the loudest storms.