Aetiology, prevalence and diagnosis of deafness in dogs and cats

Br Vet J. 1996 Jan;152(1):17-36. doi: 10.1016/s0007-1935(96)80083-2.


Peripheral deafness may be inherited or acquired, congenital or later-onset, and sensorineural or conductive. The most commonly observed forms are inherited congenital sensorineural, acquired later-onset sensorineural (ototoxicity, presbycusis) and acquired later-onset conductive (chronic otitis externa/media). In most dog and cat breeds inherited congenital sensorineural deafness results from perinatal degeneration of the stria vascularis, the vascular bed of the outer wall of the cochlear duct, which leads to hair cell degeneration. The strial degeneration appears to result from the absence of melanocytes, but their function in this structure is unknown. Ototoxicity may result from any of a large number of drugs and chemicals that directly or indirectly destroy cochlear hair cells. The effects are dose-dependent and in rare cases reversible. The most commonly recognized ototoxic drugs are the aminoglycoside antibiotics. Presbycusis, the ageing-related progressive hearing loss unattributable to other causes, is sensorineural but may also include mechanical changes in the tympanum and ossicles. Hearing aids may be accepted by some dogs as long as some residual function remains. Breeds reported to have been affected by congenital sensorineural deafness are listed and those with the highest prevalence are noted. Methods for diagnosis of deafness are described.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cat Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Cat Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Cat Diseases* / etiology
  • Cats
  • Deafness / diagnosis
  • Deafness / epidemiology
  • Deafness / etiology
  • Deafness / veterinary*
  • Dog Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Dog Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Dog Diseases* / etiology
  • Dogs
  • Ear / physiology
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem
  • Presbycusis / veterinary
  • Prevalence