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5 Surprising Ways to Protect Your Dog’s Hearing

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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

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  • Whisper: 30
  • Normal conversation: 40
  • Dishwasher, microwave, furnace: 60
  • Blow dryer: 70
  • City traffic: 70
  • Garbage disposal, vacuum cleaner: 80

Danger Zone

  • 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.

Hear no Evil

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.

 

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Using a Sonic Inventory to Reduce Stress

 

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What is a sonic inventory?

Sound researcher Joshua Leeds and veterinary neurologist Susan Wagner co-authored Through a Dog’s Ear, the first book to examine the powerful effect of the human soundscape on canines. They suggest taking a “sonic inventory” of your environment. Sound is like air. We rarely notice these two common elements unless the air suddenly becomes polluted or the sound becomes chaotic. This sonic inventory is one way of becoming aware of the noise in your pet’s environment.

  1. Sit quietly for 30 minutes, pen and pad in hand.
  2. Tune into the sounds you hear inside your home and outside on the street-the hum of the fridge, the cycle prompt of the dishwasher, the beat of a dryer, the alarm clock, hair dryer, vacuum, television, computer sounds, text alerts, traffic, car alarms, children playing, music, etc.
  3. Notice your dog’s behavior. Does he actively respond to the sounds? Is there a lack of reaction, or an overreaction to sounds you take in stride? When TV, radio or music is playing, does your dog move closer to the source or away from it?
  4. Rate the sounds from one to ten, ten being the most disturbing, one the least noticeable. Use two columns-one for your pooch and one for yourself. The goal is to have the lowest numbers you can.
  5. Ask yourself how you can make your home a calmer, more peaceful place. Which sounds can you change? Which can you avoid, turn down, or mask? Often, just by listening, we become more sonically aware, an important first step.

Personally, I consider it my responsibility to be considerate of Sanchez and Gina‘s sound environment. I play music for them daily that is designed to calm the canine nervous system. When I occasionally want to blast my Zumba playlist, I make sure they are outside. I put them in a quiet room with a treat when I vacuum, and I don’t take them to public places with loud music playing.

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.

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It’s National Dog Week. Are we listening to our dogs?

It’s 4 am and there is only one reason I am awake. My dog heard something outside and started barking. I live in a rather rural area surrounded by wildlife. One of the benefits of not having neighbors close by is the peace, quiet, and tranquility that comes with the territory. I think it’s also been good for my dog. No longer are the days where he is stimulated with all the people walking by with dogs and other distractions in my old neighborhood. But, then there is the occasional deer, skunk, raccoon, in the middle of the night that gets his attention and he finds it urgent to wake me with loud barking. No complaints. Sanchez is a fabulous watch dog – he barks, finds me, we check it out, I reassure him all is safe, and he stops barking.

It makes me wonder though what else my dog is telling me when he doesn’t speak so loudly. Since dogs hear 100 – 500% better than we do, it is to our advantage to watch their body language and reaction to sounds. I often wonder what he thinks when the microwave beeps, the cell phone alerts me of a text message, the phone rings, the alarm goes off, the tea kettle whistles, etc. These are all sounds that I can orient and understand. And, just because I know what they mean, it doesn’t mean that all of those sounds are good for me. It just means that I don’t have any fear associated with them. But does my dog?

Sanchez doesn’t appear to be very sound sensitive in general. It’s probably a combination of his breeding and his early puppy training when he was praised when he desensitized himself to sounds. As a puppy, he was a Guide Dog in training and I was his volunteer puppy raiser. (Now he wears a plaque on his collar that says, “Proud to be a Career Change Dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind”.) When he was only 6 months old, I was walking down the street with him in San Francisco and when an ambulance drove by, I would plug my ears and praise him for not reacting to the sound. I remember wanting to cover his ears as well, since his hearing is so sensitive. But praising him for being quiet was all that I could do. (Now I sometimes reward him with a treat too.) However, later, after we were back home and he was resting after a long training session, I made sure I played music that I would describe as “simple sounds”

for him, either live on the piano or recorded.

In the book Through a Dog’s Ear, Using Sound to improve the Health and Behavior of Your Canine Companion, the authors suggest taking a sonic inventory  of your environment. The sonic inventory is a way of raising awareness of the noise in our dog’s environment. The authors, Joshua Leeds and Susan Wagner, DVM, MS believe that many anxiety behaviors common in both the American people and their dogs may be the result of cumulative sensory overload, starting with the sound environments in which we live.

With the observation of National Dog Week, I commit to paying even more attention to listening to my dog. It may be just as much for my benefit as for his.