How many cats go deaf? More than you might think. A significant number of cats lose their hearing as they age. So if your cat wasn’t born congenitally hard of hearing, how can you tell that he’s gone deaf?
Apathy to Formerly Beloved Sounds
It’s a lot more difficult to tell when a cat’s lost its hearing than a dog, mostly because cats generally don’t come when they’re called by name. If your cat previously responded to his name and no longer does? That’s a warning sign! Otherwise, look for your cat to ignore other sounds he used to notice like the opening of his canned cat food, the crinkling of a treat bag, or the sound of running water.
Obliviousness to Threats
Cats are naturally pretty skittish animals, in part because their sense of hearing is so refined. When a cat starts to lose his hearing he’s less likely to notice “menacing” sounds than he used to be. Things like heavy footsteps, barking dogs, and clapping hands won’t have the same shock-value they once did. If you find it’s much easier to sneak up on your cat whether on purpose or by accident, he may be losing his sense of hearing.
Certain cats meow more than others, but meowing is actually one of the ways you can tell whether your cat’s still hearing well. Cats actually only meow to get humans’ attention (seriously!) If your cat’s meow volume has slowly increased over the past few months or years, he may no longer be able to hear himself.
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Dogs are known to sleep like logs; cats aren’t. That’s because cats’ keen sense of hearing and perky ears mean they hear everything making noise in the night. One possible sign your cat can’t hear as well as he used to is longer, deeper sleeps. It’s like his body has created a sensory deprivation tank for him and, wow, does he ever sleep well in there! Sleeping more than usual can also be a sign of illness, so if you notice this symptom, reach out to your vet.
Do you have multiple cats in your home? If so, you have an additional sign to look for if you think one of your cats might be going deaf. A cat losing his hearing is more likely to actively watch the other cat(s) for clues about what’s going on. If your cat suddenly seems to be staring at his housemate more than usual, particularly when sound is involved, you’ve got a sign.
Remember that hearing loss is usually a pretty gradual process brought on by degradation of the nerves and ear system. It can also happen if a cat’s ear becomes infected, if a mass forms, or even if it becomes impacted with debris. If you suspect your cat is going deaf, reach out to a veterinarian – there may be something you can do to slow down or even reverse the hearing loss.