Cats have an incredible sense of hearing. The range is about 45-64000hz, compared with 64-23000hz in humans and 67-45000hz in dogs. They can hear sounds humans can’t, and they even win out over dogs when it comes to high frequency hearing. Being both predator as well as prey, a cat relies heavily on his sense of hearing. A cat’s ears are exquisitely designed marvels of efficiency as they can rotate 180 degrees to precisely pinpoint the location of a sound. That being said, a cat with diminished or total hearing loss can enjoy a fulfilling, happy and healthy life if precautions are taken to ensure safety and security, beginning with living exclusively indoors.
What Causes Deafness in Cats?
Just as with humans, cats can develop diminished hearing or lose it completely as they age. Because it can happen so gradually, it may go undetected by the human family for quite a while.
It can be congenital as well so a cat may be born with partial or total deafness. Congenital deafness more commonly occurs in white cats with blue eyes, but it’s a myth that ALL blue-eyed white cats are deaf.
Temporary reduced hearing may be the result of an excessive amount of ear wax. This can be corrected by having the cat’s ears cleaned by the veterinarian.
Deafness may also result from untreated conditions such as ear mites, ear infections and other health issues. Cancer, tumors, or trauma to the ear may also result in deafness. Hearing loss due to the use of toxic products for ear cleaning or administration of toxic drugs can contribute to hearing loss.
Ear damage from very loud noises can cause hearing loss.
Signs of hearing loss can include:
- Sleeping undisturbed through loud noise
- Difficulty being awakened
- Not responding to being called
- No longer responding to typical household noises
- Startling more easily
- No longer responding to the sound of toys that make noises
- Becoming more isolated
How Can You Tell if Your Cat is Deaf?
It can be hard to tell if he has always been less responsive and less inclined to interact with family. If there are other animals in the home, the deaf cat often learns to watch their visual cues to determine if something is going on, which can also make the hearing loss less noticeable to family.
If your cat startles more easily now, there may be hearing loss or total deafness. He may no longer react when you clap your hands near him or shake something that makes noise, such as a set of keys. If you are testing to determine if your cat has hearing loss, make sure you are out of his line of sight so the reaction isn’t based on the visual cue.
Since cats are so adept at using their other senses, you may not notice hearing loss until it’s in a more advanced stage.
One thing you may become aware of is that the cat begins meowing more loudly because he can’t hear himself. A deaf cat may pay closer attention to other environmental signals such as air currents when a pet companion or human passes by. Vibrations also become an important warning system as well. The cat may feel the vibration of footsteps as you walk by or the vibration of music or TV being turned on which tells the cat someone has entered the room.