Deafness occurs in dogs probably with the same frequency as in people. The most common causes are congenital (recognised generally in the first 6 months of life) and age related (senile or degenerative deafness).

Congenital deafness is most likely due to a genetic abnormality and is seen more commonly in some breeds including Dalmatians, Australian Cattle Dogs (ACD’s) and English Bull Terriers. It can, however, be seen occasionally in any dog breed and deafness is usually apparent by 6 weeks of age. Deafness may affect one or both ears. Deafness due to genetic abnormality unfortunately is permanent.

Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) testing is the most sensitive test in assessing hearing. Other less sensitive tests are available e.g. BAERCOM, but these tests are significantly less accurate.

Breeders of Dalmatians, ACDs, English Setters and Bull Terriers are encouraged to routinely have puppies hearing evaluated by BAER testing prior to pups going to pet homes, and before making breeding decisions in an effort to reduce the incidence of deafness in their breeds.

Researchers at the University of Sydney are working with Dalmatian breeders to try and establish the genetic basis for hearing loss in this breed.

BAER testing can be used to evaluate the hearing of any dog (or cat), young or old that is suspected of being deaf in one or both ears. It is a test that determines whether cochlear function (inner ear) and the “wiring” to hear, is intact. The volume of the sound in the test can be varied but this test does not assess degree of any partial hearing loss. However “selective” deafness can be distinguished from true deafness!

BAER testing requires ear plugs to be worn and 3 fine electrodes to be inserted under the skin. A mild sedative is usually given prior to testing so the foam earplugs don’t irritate puppy’s ears.

A lot of cuteness in these photos!