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Dogs and Hearing: Why Can They Hear Things We Can’t?

“Want to go for a walk?” Even though they can’t understand what we are saying, our furry friends certainly can hear our meaning. And that’s not all they can hear. It seems that even when we believe a room to be silent, our dogs pick up on a whole array of sounds bypassed by the human ear. The human ear can pick up frequencies anywhere from 20 to 20,000 Hertz. Shockingly enough, dogs can hear from 40 to 60,000 Hertz, three times as well! Why is that?

Ear Shape Advantages

Dogs have an advantage over humans in both the placement and size of their ears. While human ears lie flat against their heads, dog ears are often erect. Dogs with upright ears, like German Pinschers, can hear better than dogs with floppy ears, like Beagles, because of the placement and size of their ears. Especially when they hear a sound, dogs can move their ears from side to side or up and down to enable them to hear better. Humans mimic this by cupping their hand around the back of their ear to pick up a wider range of sound. Our pets use over 18 muscles in their ears to make these small movements.

Going the Distance

Another advantage dog ears have over human ears is their range of distance. Humans can hear sounds up to 20 feet away, but their dogs already heard those same sounds when they were 80 feet away. That’s what makes them such excellent protectors – you may not hear an intruder downstairs, but your pup will!

Independent Ears

What goes in one dog ear doesn’t just go out the other, but both ears can receive separate messages. Like two antennae, dog ears move in the direction of the sounds they hear, even when there are competing sounds. That’s why when your dog is enamored with the couple walking by outside your window, they can also hear you pouring food into their dish, and they come running over. This skill comes in handy during search and rescue missions where there are many different sounds, but many go unnoticed by the human ear. Though traditionally acclaimed for their excellent sense of smell, we should not underestimate the benefits of dogs’ good hearing.

Deafness in Dogs

However, just like humans, dogs also can start to experience hearing loss. There are certain breeds known to experience congenital deafness and ear infections more than others. Dalmatians, Jack Russell Terriers, Bull Terriers, and Australian Cattle Dogs are among those with ear issues. Also, though puppies are deaf up to two weeks old, they should be able to hear you after that time. If you believe your dog is deaf or experiences hearing loss, your vet can run a BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) test  to detect activity in the auditory pathways to the brain.

Causes of Hearing Loss in Dogs

Your dog may experience hearing loss due to several different reasons. Their ear canal or outer ear may be inflamed from infection. To prevent this, be sure to clean all the folds of the ear, especially in dogs with floppy ears. Your dog could have a tumor or nerve damage, seen generally in elderly dogs. Another potential cause is trauma. The best thing to do is to take your pet to the vet as soon as you see the problem arise. Caring for your dog can preserve their hearing and ensure they have a long life of hearing the world around them!

By: Diana Michel

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