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Dog hearing: Are there sounds only dogs can hear?

Dog hearing

Understanding a dog’s hearing is crucial for anyone who owns or works with dogs. Dogs have a highly developed sense of hearing that they rely heavily on to communicate, navigate, and detect danger. We know that their sense of hearing is better than ours, but are there sounds only dogs can hear? What do pet parents need to know about common hearing problems in dogs? 

Table of contents 

Anatomy of a dog’s ear 

The anatomy of a dog’s ear is quite different from that of a human ear. Their ears have three parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. 

Outer ear 

The outer ear of a dog consists of the pinna, which is the visible part of the ear, as well as the ear canal. The pinna is the floppy or pointed part of the ear and it varies in shape, size, and texture between dog breeds. The pinna plays an essential role in helping dogs detect and locate sounds in their environment. Dogs have a remarkable ability to move their ears independently to help them locate the source of a sound. 

The ear canal is a curved tube that leads to the eardrum. The ear canal is lined with hair and wax-producing glands that help to keep the ear dry and clean of dirt and debris. 

Middle ear 

The middle ear of a dog is a small, air-filled space located behind the eardrum. It contains three small bones: the malleus, incus, and stapes, which are also present in human ears. These bones amplify the vibrations from the eardrum and transmit them to the inner ear. The middle ear is also connected to the back of the throat by a small tube called the Eustachian tube, which helps to equalize the pressure in the middle ear. 

Inner ear 

The inner ear of a dog is a complex and delicate structure responsible for hearing and balance. It contains the cochlea, which is the organ responsible for hearing, and the vestibular system, which is responsible for balance. The cochlea contains thousands of tiny hair cells that convert sound vibrations into electrical signals that are sent to the brain for processing. The vestibular system, on the other hand, uses fluid-filled canals and tiny hair cells to detect the movement and position of the head, which helps dogs maintain their balance and spatial orientation. 

How dogs hear 

Dogs have a remarkable sense of hearing that far surpasses human abilities. They can hear a broader range of sounds at much higher frequencies than humans, and their ears are designed to help them detect and locate sounds in their environment. Dogs’ ears are also capable of moving independently, allowing them to determine the direction and distance of a sound accurately. 

When sound waves enter a dog’s ear, they travel down the ear canal and vibrate the eardrum. The three tiny bones in the middle ear then amplify the vibrations and transmit them to the cochlea in the inner ear. The cochlea contains thousands of hair cells that convert the vibrations into electrical signals, which are sent to the brain for processing. 

Dogs’ hearing abilities also vary depending on their breed, age, and overall health. Some breeds, such as hounds, have an especially acute sense of hearing and are used in hunting to track prey. Older dogs may experience a decline in their hearing ability. 

Frequency range 

While humans can typically hear sounds between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz, dogs can hear sounds up to 65,000 Hz or even higher in some cases. This means that dogs can hear sounds that are too high-pitched for humans to detect, such as the high-pitched whine of a mosquito. 

Sound localization 

With ears that are shaped like cones and containing more than 18 muscles, dogs can rotate their ears to locate the source of a sound accurately. A dog’s ears are shaped to capture and focus sounds, and they can move their ears independently to help determine the direction and distance of a sound. This ability is especially useful for hunting and tracking prey. 

When a sound enters a dog’s ear, it arrives at each ear at slightly different times and with different levels of intensity, depending on the direction from which it came. The dog’s brain uses this information to determine the location of the sound source. 

Sound differentiation 

Dogs are also highly skilled at differentiating between different types of sounds, which is essential for distinguishing between potential threats and non-threatening sounds. For example, a dog can distinguish between the sound of its owner’s voice and the sound of a stranger’s voice, even from a distance. 

Sensitivity to sound 

While humans can typically hear sounds within a range of about 130 decibels, dogs can detect sounds up to 160 decibels or higher. This means that dogs can hear sounds that are much quieter than what humans can detect, such as the rustling of leaves or the footsteps of a person walking far away. Dogs’ acute hearing abilities are attributed to the structure and design of their ears, which are uniquely adapted to detect and amplify sounds. 

Common hearing problems in dogs 

Just like humans, they can develop hearing problems for a variety of reasons. The most common hearing problems in dogs include deafness and hearing loss, ear infections, and tumors and growths. 

Hearing loss and deafness 

Hearing loss in dogs is a common condition that can affect dogs of all breeds and ages. Just like humans, dogs can experience varying or progressing levels of hearing loss depending on the cause. There are various reasons why dogs may experience hearing loss, including age, genetics, infections, injuries, and exposure to loud noises. 

Complete hearing loss, or deafness, can affect dogs of all ages, and can either be present at birth or set in at any age. Deafness can also affect all dog breeds, but is often genetic, meaning that some breeds are more susceptible than others. Congenital deafness, which is present at birth, is more likely to occur in Dalmatians, Australian Cattle Dogs, English Setters, and Jack Russell Terriers. Other breeds that may develop hearing loss later in life include Cocker Spaniels, Beagles, and Shetland Sheepdogs. It’s important to note that while these breeds may be more susceptible to hearing issues, it doesn’t mean that all dogs of these breeds will experience them. 

Ear infections 

Ear infections are a common problem in dogs, especially those with floppy ears, and can cause inflammation and damage to the ear canal, leading to hearing loss. Ear infections in dogs can be caused by bacteria, yeast, allergies, and parasites.  

Tumors and growths 

As dogs age, they may be more susceptible to developing tumors and growths in their ears, which can impact their hearing. Some common types of ear tumors in dogs include adenocarcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and ceruminous gland adenocarcinomas. 

Signs of hearing problems in dogs 

Behavioral changes 

Hearing problems in dogs can have a significant impact on their behavior, which may serve as a sign that something is amiss. Dogs with hearing issues may: 

  • Fail to respond to their owners’ calls or commands 
  • Seem disoriented or confused when interacting with their surroundings 
  • Bark excessively, whine, or show signs of stress, especially when left alone 
  • Be easily startled or agitated by sudden noises or movement 
  • Become more aggressive or defensive than usual 
  • Show less interest in playing or socializing 
  • Exhibit increased lethargy 
  • Have a decreased appetite 

Physical symptoms 

Hearing problems in dogs can manifest in a variety of physical symptoms, which may vary depending on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. Monitor you dog for the following symptoms: 

  • Persistent ear infection or inflammation, which may cause discomfort or discharge 
  • Frequently scratching or rubbing ears 
  • Tilting head to one side or shaking in an effort to alleviate any discomfort 
  • Lack of balance or coordination, which may result in stumbling, falling, or difficulty walking or running 
  • Visible deformities or abnormalities in their ears or the surrounding structures, such as excessive wax buildup or a ruptured eardrum 
  • Secondary issues or complications as a result of their hearing loss, such as chronic stress, which can lead to a weakened immune system or other health problems 

What should you do? 

If your dog is showing signs of hearing loss, it’s important to consult your veterinarian as soon as possible. They will be able to perform a thorough examination to determine the extent of your dog’s hearing loss and rule out any underlying health issues that may be contributing to the problem. 

Help your dog navigate hearing loss 

It can be difficult for dogs to adjust to a life with reduced or complete loss of hearing, but there are things you can do as a pet owner to help your dog safely navigate the world around them. 

  • Use visual cues and hand signals: Since verbal commands won’t work, you’ll need to rely on visual cues and hand signals to communicate with your dog about what you need from them, like “sit” or “come.” 
  • Use vibrations and physical touch: Since hearing-impaired dogs can’t hear you calling them, you can use vibrations or touch to get their attention instead. For example, you can stomp your foot on the ground or gently touch their shoulder to get their attention. 
  • Keep your dog on a leash: Dogs with hearing loss may not be able to hear cars or other dangers approaching, so it’s best to keep them on a leash when you’re out and about. This will help ensure they stay safe. 
  • Provide a safe space: Deaf dogs can become stressed if they feel unsure of their surroundings. Provide your dog with a safe space, such as a crate or a designated area in your home, where they can go to relax and feel secure. 

How can ElleVet CBD + CBDA help stressed dogs? 

It is common for dogs who have experienced hearing loss to suffer from both generalized and acute stress. ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA chews, soft gels, and oils can help dogs’ general stress levels decrease and return to a normal state of balance. For hearing-impaired dogs who are always on high alert, CBD + CBDA can be extremely helpful in truly calming without sedating so these dogs can learn to relax in highly stimulating situations and environments.  

For dogs who experience situational stress related to separation or unfamiliar environments, ElleVet’s Calm & Comfort chews act quickly to provide maximum support when dogs with hearing issues need it most. When given 1.5-2 hours ahead of your departure or new experience, these chews are extremely effective in addressing dogs’ acute level of stress.  

As always, consult your veterinarian if your dog shows signs of stress. For any questions about ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA products or how CBD can help your dog live their best life, give us a call (844-673-7287) or send us an email ([email protected]). We are here to help. 

Preventing hearing problems in dogs 

One of the most important steps pet owners can take to prevent hearing problems in their dog is to ensure they receive routine veterinary care, including regular ear examinations. This can help catch any potential hearing issues early on before they become more severe. 

It’s also crucial to protect dogs’ ears from loud noises, which can cause permanent hearing damage. This can be achieved by keeping dogs away from loud machinery, fireworks, and other sources of loud noise. 

As a part of your dog’s regular grooming routine, you should clean your dog’s ears to prevent the buildup of wax and debris, which can lead to infections and other ear problems. Avoid using cotton swabs or other objects when cleaning, as this can push debris further into the ear canal and cause damage. Instead, use a veterinarian-recommended ear cleaning solution and follow the instructions carefully. 

Take home message 

Dogs have an impressive sense of hearing that allows them to navigate their environment and communicate with those around them. However, just like humans, dogs can suffer from hearing problems, which can greatly affect their quality of life. It is important to take measures to prevent hearing loss in your dog, such as avoiding loud noises and regularly cleaning their ears. Your furry friend relies on their hearing more than you may think, so make sure to give them the care and attention they deserve.