Cat deafness can be present at birth, present itself gradually or be the very sudden result of an illness or accident. It also does not solely manifest as total hearing loss, sometimes only one ear is affected or only partial hearing is lost.
Temporary hearing loss can be caused by a mild infection or from side effects of certain drugs, like amino-glycoside antibiotics or diuretics. Ear mites are another common cause of temporary hearing loss, as well as tumors or polyps.
Permanent deafness can be caused by a variety of factors, including old age, continued exposure to loud noises, injury or severe, untreated ear infections.
Additionally, all-white, blue-eyed cats are born deaf.
Regularly monitoring and cleaning a cat’s ears can help prevent infections. If your cat does start to exhibit any of the following signs, however, a visit to the veterinarian may be in order.
• Persistent scratching and pawing of the ear area
• Sensitivity to touch
• Head tilting or shaking
• Loss of balance and disorientation
• Redness or swelling of the ear flap or canal
• Unpleasant odor
• Black or yellowish discharge
• Accumulation of dark brown wax
• Hearing loss
A licensed veterinarian should be consulted if your cat is exhibiting signs of an ear problem. They will examine your feline friend for infections, mites, inflammation or injury.
A common test used to evaluate hearing is the BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response). Small electrodes are placed under the skin during the procedure to measure electrical activity in the ear and brain. The test is not painful, and your veterinarian may suggest a referral to a veterinary neurologist to have it performed.
Treatment & Prevention
A veterinarian might recommend regular cleanings and medication for a mild infection or ear mites. But, permanent hearing loss cannot be reversed. Luckily, cats are extremely adaptable and can utilize their other senses to maintain a high quality of life.
Regular cleanings are a great way to prevent ear problems in addition to being an effective treatment. It is also important to remember never to use over-the-counter medication or insert a cotton swab into your cat’s ear canal without a veterinarian’s prior instruction.
Have a dog at home too? Learn how to prevent and treat dog deafness.
Information courtesy of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®).