Old dog on walk

Hearing loss in dogs associated with dementia

Older dogs with hearing loss are less able to perform tasks and tend to have a lower quality of life, new research suggests.

The study by researchers at North Carolina State University explored the connection between hearing loss and dementia in dogs.

In humans, we know that the rate of cognitive decline is approximately 30-40% faster in people with age-related hearing loss, and that hearing loss is a greater contributor to dementia risk than other factors such as hypertension or obesity, said Natasha Olby, corresponding author of the study.

Dog napping

To help find out whether the same holds true for dogs, Olby and colleagues performed auditory and cognitive tests on 39 elderly dogs and the owners were asked to complete questionnaires on their dog’s cognitive ability and quality of life.

Cognitive testing, questionnaire scores and age were compared between groups of dogs with different hearing levels.

The results showed that scores related to vitality and companionship, and the dog’s ability to perform tasks, declined significantly as hearing deteriorated.

“Hearing loss is one of the biggest predictors of dementia in people,” Olby said. “Hearing loss also contributes to falls in elderly people, as sensory decline contributes to a loss in motor skills. So the connection between physical and neurological decline is clear for humans.

“This study indicates that the same connection is at work in ageing dogs. But since we can potentially treat hearing loss in dogs, we may be able to alleviate some of these other issues.”

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