Deafness is hearing impairment, loss of hearing or the inability to hear things either partially or completely. Deafness can be unilateral (affects one ear) or bilateral (affects both ears).
A cat can be deaf right from birth or there are other factors such as known diseases, nerve damage to the ear, tumors, cancer, trauma which can also cause deafness.
Typical signs exhibited during deafness are not responding to sounds, commands, excess sleeping, shaking its head.
Cats born deaf usually inherit this disorder from the parents. Breeds affected by this condition include certain white haired cats. These include:
› Scottish Fold
› Oriental Shorthair
› Turkish Angora
› Maine Coon
› Cornish Rex
› Devon Rex
Deafness can be caused by numerous factors. There are two primary reasons for deafness.
› Conduction deafness – This occurs when the sound waves are unable to reach the nerves in the ear. It is caused by physical, structure or tissue abnormalities involving the anatomy of the ear which includes external ear, middle ear, ear canal, ear drum, inflammations, infections, diseases, tumors, ruptures, scars, excess hair growth, foreign objects etc.
› Nerve deafness – This is caused by abnormalities in the internal ear, auditory nerves, receptors and brain and is caused by fluid buildup, development disorders, internal damages to the nerves and brain.
Other known causes include:
› Age of the cat (Senior cat over 7 years of age)
› Genetic or inherited
› Tumors and cancer
› Otitis Externa (Inflammation of the external ear)
› Otitis Media (Inflammation of the middle ear)
› Otitis Interna (Inflammation of the inner ear)
› Fungal infections affecting the ear
› Bacterial infections affecting the ear
› Medications used for treatment of cancer (Chemotherapy drugs)
› Reactions to antibiotics, antiseptics, ointments, ear drops
› Sudden loud noise
› Physical injury to the nerves and the ear
Clinical Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms seen are:
› Not responding to sounds (everyday sounds, commands, name, loud noise etc.)
› Excess sleeping
› Not alert
› Waking up when touched
› Head shaking
› Responding only when seen
Veterinarians will require a complete history of your cat which includes medical history, vaccination records, existing health concerns, current and previous medications, onset of symptoms, diet and exercise routine and any information which can help in establishing a correct diagnosis. Diagnosis is done with a combination of tests. These include routine lab examinations and special tests. They are:
› Physical examination – this involves a complete ear (otoscopic) examination, looking for any foreign body, mites infestation, internal injury, swelling, ruptures, bacterial or fungal infections, tumors and abscess
› Complete Blood Count (CBC)
› X-rays (of the ear and skull)
› BAER test (Brain-stem auditory evoked response)
› Cytology tests
Deafness caused by genetic inheritance cannot be treated and the cat will have hearing impairment for life.
If deafness is caused by other factors, treatment includes:
› Antibacterial medications
› Anti-fungal medications
› Medications for treatment of secondary causes (mites, infections)
› Treatment of wounds, tumors, scars, ruptures
› Antibiotic medications
Veterinarians will opt for:
› Fluid drainage (this needs to be done multiple times as there are high chances of recurrence)
› Surgical procedures
› Use of Elizabethan collar (this restricts a pet from scratching its ear)
Genetic (inherited) deafness cannot be prevented. DO NOT BREED CATS diagnosed with deafness by birth.
Deafness caused by other factors is a secondary result of known conditions. Treatment needs to be started immediately to avoid condition becoming worse and leading to permanent deafness.
Home care should aim at improving the condition. Treatments can take a few days to a few weeks. If you observe any behavioral changes, or if the condition does not improve, please contact your veterinarian.
Prognosis is always good post surgery. Most pets are treated on an outpatient basis.
› It is mandatory to provide a stress-free environment for your cat. Keep water and food bowls within reach. Avoid physical activity. Keep your cats away from any noise and commotions.
› You have to administer and monitor all prescribed medicine as directed by your veterinarian.
› Do NOT travel with your cat.
› Do not allow your pet to roam outdoors, Accidents, mishaps and unseen situations can arise as the pet is momentarily deaf and will not be able to hear caution sounds
› Always keep sharp objects covered and fragile objects away from pets to avoid the risk of injury and accidents.
› Routine and regular checkups to access the progress (for fluid drainage, ear cleaning, medications)
› Exercise caution when dealing with pets. Daily cleaning and vacuuming, disposal of materials such as bandages, cotton swabs used for abscess or by ear secretions. Wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly. Using disinfectants and proper hygiene protocols are strongly advised.
› Place a bell on the collar so that you can know where is pet is