Are Boston Terriers Prone To Deafness? (Statistics)

Have you noticed that your Boston never comes to you when they are called? Are they just being flat-out stubborn, or do you suspect that your Boston may be deaf?

This article will review how common deafness is in the Boston Terrier breed and the most common causes of deafness in Bostons. 

Are Boston Terriers Prone To Deafness? (Statistics)

Also, this article will cover the signs, diagnosis, and treatment of deafness in Boston Terriers.

Boston Terrier Deafness: Incidence, Causes, Signs, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Boston Terriers may be more prone to developing deafness than other dog breeds. Most cases of deafness in Bostons are hereditary and congenital, meaning they are born with deafness. 

The most common sign of deafness is not responding to loud noises.

Your veterinarian can check the hearing of your Boston by special testing. Though, unfortunately, there are not many options for treating deafness in dogs.

Are Boston Terriers Prone To Deafness? (Statistics)

What Is Boston Terrier Deafness?

Deafness refers to the loss of hearing that can be either complete or partial. Deafness can sometimes be temporary due to damage to the eardrum, or it can be permanent. Loss of hearing can also occur in one or both ears.

Veterinary researchers estimated that almost 5 percent of Boston Terriers might be deaf in both ears.

Is Deafness Common In The Boston Terrier Breed?

Veterinary researchers estimated that almost 5 percent of Boston Terriers might be deaf in both ears. While this research was based on a very small number of dogs, it still suggests that deafness in Boston Terriers is not uncommon.

Some suggest that Bostons that are more white or have blue eyes may be more predisposed to being deaf.

Here is a graph that shows how common deafness is in the Boston Terrier breed.

Figure 1. Boston Terrier Rates of Deafness. Strain, 2011.

Concerned about Boston health issues? Read, 10 Common Boston Terrier Health Problems.

What Dog Breeds Are Prone To Deafness?

It’s thought that many cases of deafness in dogs are breed-related and hereditary. Many dog breeds may be prone to genetic deafness. Deafness is perhaps most well known in the Dalmatian breed.

George Strain, a professor in neurology at Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, suggested that the following dog breeds may be more prone to deafness:

Are you interested in other dog breeds? Read, How These Popular Dog Breeds Got Their Names.

Are Boston Terriers Prone To Deafness? (Statistics)

What Causes Deafness In Dogs?

Most cases of deafness in dogs, including Bostons, are hereditary congenital cases meaning they are born deaf. A genetic defect most likely causes these cases. 

Many of these cases of congenital deafness are associated with merle and white coat colors or the piebald gene. Some Boston Terriers have the piebald gene, which is why deafness is so common in the Boston Terrier breed.

A canine geneticist from Oxford University stated that deafness in Boston Terriers may be related to the same gene that causes blue eyes. There is an association in other dog breeds between blue eyes and deafness, and blue-eyed dalmatians are statistically more likely to be deaf than brown-eyed animals.

Occasionally, Boston Terriers can become deaf due to old age and degeneration of the ear’s hearing structures. Also, deafness can be caused by infections, toxins, or tumors within the ear; although, these causes occur less frequently.

Want to learn more about Blue Eyed Boston Terriers? Check out this article, Why Does My Boston Terrier Have Blue Eyes?

Are Boston Terriers Prone To Deafness? (Statistics)

Can A Dog Suddenly Go Deaf Versus Being Born Deaf?

Though being born deaf is perhaps more common, an adult dog can also go suddenly deaf. Usually, if an adult dog goes suddenly deaf, there is likely an infection, toxin, or cancer-causing deafness. Old age hearing loss is usually a more gradual onset.

If your dog is experiencing sudden hearing loss, it is important to visit a veterinarian promptly.

Need to speak with a veterinarian immediately? Visit the Boston Terrier Society’s Vet Talk Page for more details here, Talk With A Veterinarian.

How Do You Know If Your Boston Terrier Is Deaf?

If your Boston is deaf, you may notice that they do not respond to noise as much as they did before. You may see that they don’t seem to react to loud noises or come when they are called in puppies.

If your veterinarian suspects your Boston is deaf, your veterinarian may recommend a particular test for deafness. (See – How Does A Vet Test For Deafness)

What Are The Symptoms Of Deafness In Boston Terriers?

The most common signs of deafness in Boston Terriers are not responding to loud noises and not responding to being called. 

If there is only deafness in one ear, you may NOT notice any symptoms because dogs are very good at adapting to hearing loss in one ear.

Here are a few of the symptoms you may notice if your Boston is deaf:

  • Becoming Startled When You Touch Them
  • Not Coming When You Call Them
  • Not Responding To Squeaky Toys
  • Not Waking Up When There Are Loud Noises
  • Failure To Respond To Verbal Commands
  • Unresponsive To Sounds Like The Vacuum Cleaner
Are Boston Terriers Prone To Deafness? (Statistics)

How Does A Veterinarian Test A Dog For Deafness?

Most vets check for deafness by making a loud noise to see if your dog will react. Your veterinarian may also recommend a specialized test called the Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) test to check for hearing.

Read below how a veterinarian tests adult dogs and puppies for deafness.

BAER Test Video

If you suspect you may need to have the BAER Test, watch this video on how the test is administered.

BAER Test Video On YouTube

Testing An Adult Dog For Deafness

First, your veterinarian will examine your dog’s ear to check for any evidence of infection, trauma, or cancer. If the ear appears normal, they may do a simple test like clapping to check for hearing.

If they suspect deafness, your veterinarian may refer your pet to a specialist to do a BAER test. 

The Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response, or BAER test for short, is a type of test performed by veterinary specialists to check a dogs’ hearing. This test can be done in dogs six weeks of age and older. 

The BAER test is done by attaching electrodes to the head of the dog. Often, this can be done without even giving the dog any sedation. The test will detect the electrical activity within the brain to check for hearing. 

Testing a Puppy for Deafness

Checking hearing in a puppy can be a little bit trickier because they are so wiggly! Often, puppies will not start reacting to noises until they are 3 to 4 weeks of age.

To check for hearing in puppies, veterinarians will examine the ear and may check for hearing by seeing if your puppy reacts to a loud noise.

They may also recommend the BAER test for your puppy to confirm deafness in one or both ears.

Are Boston Terriers Prone To Deafness? (Statistics)

How Can A Boston Terrier Owner Test, Their Dog For Deafness?

You can try testing your puppy or adult dog’s hearing at home, but this is not a very sensitive test. Also, this test will not detect if your pup is deaf only in one ear.

A crude way to check hearing in dogs at home is by calling your dog’s name or making a loud clapping noise while they are asleep. Typically, for a dog that can hear, they will wake up or become startled when they hear the loud noise.

If your dog is deaf, often, they will not wake up because they can’t hear the loud noise.

Is Deafness In Dogs Painful?

Most of the time, deafness is not painful for dogs. Deafness simply refers to the loss of hearing and, on its own, is not usually painful. However, some causes of deafness, such as ear infections or tumors within the ears, can be painful.

If you think your pup is experiencing pain along with their deafness, this might be a sign that there is another underlying condition that needs to be treated. I would recommend visiting a veterinarian if your dog’s ears are painful.

Are Boston Terriers Prone To Deafness? (Statistics)

Treating Deafness In Boston Terriers

Unfortunately, most cases of deafness in Bostons can not be treated. Yet, the good news is that most dogs tolerate deafness well. 

It is important to protect your deaf dog from danger such as cars. They will not be able to hear road noise and are therefore more likely to get hit by a car. 

In addition, be sure that you protect small children and people from startling a deaf dog because deaf dogs may be more easily startled and may bite reactively.

Finally, it is essential never to breed a deaf dog. Many cases of deafness are related to genetics, which is why it is never a good idea to breed deaf dogs. By breeding a deaf dog, you are risking spreading this gene to the puppies, and the puppies may be deaf.

Can Deafness In A Dog Be Cured?

In general, most cases of deafness in dogs can not be cured. However, there are some cases of deafness caused by toxins or infections that might resolve given enough time, but in general, most cases of deafness in dogs are irreversible.

Are There Hearing Aids For Deaf Dogs?

At this point, hearing aids for dogs are not readily available. Hearing aids are essentially just amplifiers of sound, so most of the time, these won’t work for dogs that were born deaf. Also, dogs may not tolerate the presence of a hearing aid.

If you want to learn more about hearing aids for dogs, speak to your veterinarian to see what they recommend.

Are Boston Terriers Prone To Deafness? (Statistics)

Final Thoughts

Deafness in Boston Terriers is not uncommon. Up to 5% of Bostons may be deaf, and most likely, this is caused by a genetic abnormality. If you notice that your Boston is not responding or reacting to sounds, this could be a sign that they are deaf.

Most dogs adapt well to being deaf, but it is essential to keep your Boston on a leash when outside to protect them from cars. Also, do not breed a deaf dog because you are risking having puppies that will also be deaf.

If you suspect your dog is deaf or you are unsure, it would be a good idea to consult with your veterinarian. Your vet can definitively diagnose deafness in your Boston.


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Addie Reinhard, DVM

Addie Reinhard, DVM- Dr. Addie Reinhard is an experienced small animal veterinarian. She is a Boston Terrier lover and always enjoys caring for her Boston patients at the veterinary clinic. She is passionate about providing helpful educational resources to pet parents regarding animal diseases and preventative care. She lives in Lexington, KY with her husband, greyhound, and four cats.

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