It’s extremely common for senior dogs to gradually lose their hearing, often until it’s completely diminished. However, there are many small changes we can make to our sound environment to help protect their hearing.
Sounds are measured in decibels (dB), and each 10 dB increase represents a tenfold increase in sound energy. 90 dB is ten times noisier than 80 dB, 100 dB is ten times noisier than 90, and so on. Sound researcher Joshua Leeds, co-author of Through a Dog’s Ear, the first book to examine the powerful effect of the human soundscape on dogs, states, “Above 85 dB, you start playing with auditory fire. Inside the inner ear, irreparable cilia cell damage worsens with length of exposure and higher decibel levels. Your dog’s inner ear works in exactly the same way yours does and has an even wider range of frequency.”
Decibels of Common Household and Street Sounds
- Whisper: 30
- Normal conversation: 40
- Dishwasher, microwave, furnace: 60
- Blow dryer: 70
- City traffic: 70
- Garbage disposal, vacuum cleaner: 80
- Lawn mower: 90
- Screaming child: 90
- Power drill: 110
- Ambulance: 130
- Gunshot: 130
- Fire engine siren: 140
- Boom cars: 145
Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Dog’s Hearing:
1. Take a sonic inventory.
Sound is like air. We rarely notice these two common elements unless the air suddenly becomes polluted or the sound becomes chaotic. The sonic inventory is one way of becoming aware of the noise in your pet’s environment and take measures to improve it.
2. Don’t expose them to loud bands or loud street fairs.
Humans hear sounds between 20-20,000 Hz. Dogs hear at least twice as high, sometimes all the way up to 55,000 Hz. While it’s great that more events and public places are dog friendly, so often those environments are created for humans. A fundraising party for dogs and their people that benefits your local shelter doesn’t benefit your dog when a loud band is playing. Please be careful of your dog’s sound environment.
3. Provide simple sounds at home that calm the canine nervous system.
Minimize intricate auditory information found in most music. The clinically tested music of Through a Dog’s Ear is intentionally selected, arranged and recorded to provide easeful auditory assimilation. Three primary processes are used to accomplish this effect:
- Auditory Pattern Identification
- Orchestral Density
- Resonance & Entrainment
Take a listen with your pup and enjoy a soothing sound bath together.
4. Be aware of your dog’s unresolved sensory input.
When it comes to sound, dogs don’t always understand cause and effect. You know when people are in your home yelling at the TV during a sports game that it’s all in good fun. But, it may not be much fun for your dog, who is still trying to orient whether all of those crazy sounds are safe. Put Fido in a back quiet room, listening to music especially designed for dogs. This can not only safeguard his hearing, but also his behavior.
5. Don’t play two sound sources simultaneously.
Remember that your dog’s hearing is much finer than yours. One family member may be in the living room blasting the TV, while another is in the kitchen listening to the radio. Your dog is caught in the middle, absorbing both sounds and getting stressed. Try and only have one sound source at a time, playing at a gentle volume.
My senior dog, Sanchez, is 11 years old. I have been more cautious about his sound environment than any previous dog. I even play the grand piano with the lid down, as he loves to lie underneath it. I am happy to say that he has shown no signs of any hearing loss.
Those of us who love our pets often assume that our environment is the best for them. However, sometimes it requires a different way of thinking, to assess whether what works for us, works for our beloved pets as well.
Are you committed to becoming a sound aware dog lover? Thanks for posting a comment below and sharing some ways that you can improve your household sound environment for your dogs and cats. Ultimately, the 2-leggeds in your household will also benefit.