How to Test Your Dog's Hearing

It can be devastating when your dog suddenly stops acknowledging you when you're in the room. She may seem to ignore you when you call her name. Or she may not recognize voices that were once familiar to her. You may take these as a sign that your dog is not interested in the things that used to catch her attention; however, your dog may have lost some, if not all, of her hearing. Different factors can contribute to a dog's hearing loss: wax build-up, old age or untreated ear infections. You can perform home testing or seek professional procedures to determine the extent of hearing loss in your dog.

Veterinarian examining ear of puppy
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credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

Clean your canine's ears. Moisten a cotton ball with warm, but not hot, water and a bit of gentle soap made for dogs, hydrogen peroxide or canine ear cleaner. Gently rub wax and dirt off the earlobe. Next, moisten a cotton swab to remove debris trapped within the cartilage. Do not place the swab down the ear canal. Repeat this process on the other ear. Wax build-up in dogs can affect their hearing the same way it does for people. After you have cleaned your dog's ears, he may start recognizing voices and noises he didn’t before.

Test your dog's hearing at home. Use sound to determine her reaction. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals notes, “You can test your dog’s hearing by stepping quietly behind her and clapping once loudly to check her response." Make sure you walk slowly towards her so she doesn't feel the vibration when you walk. Stand far enough away so she doesn't feel air movement. You can also use noises such as a squeaky toy, jingling keys or even a vacuum cleaner. If your dog shows no response, she could be completely deaf. You can also call her name from one area of the room. If your dog turns in the opposite direction from your voice, she may be partially deaf.

Ask your vet to perform a BAER test. The only way to know for sure if your dog is totally or partially deaf is by using Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) testing. This test uses a computer to record the electrical activity of the brain in response to sound. According to The Deaf Dog Education Action Fund, BAER "does not measure the full range of canine hearing, but it will tell you if your dog has hearing within the normal human range.” The Deaf Dog Education Action Fund notes, “A clicking sound is directed into the ear through a foam insert, earphones, or headphones and the brain's response is recorded. Each ear is tested individually and the test generally lasts for only 10 to 15 minutes.” Not all facilities offer BAER testing. Your veterinarian will refer you to BAER testing in your area if he can't perform it at his office.