SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— What exactly causes deafness in pets? We asked Dr. Jennifer Scarlett from the San Francisco SPCA. She says it’s conductive problems that are usually acquired.

“An animal that has chronic ear infections or a mass in the ear canal can cause deafness. The other is neural,” she said, meaning congenital problems, which are associated with dogs and cats that are white or have pale irises, albinism. It can also be acquired through age or exposure to very loud noises can degenerate those neurons.

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There are signs that your pet may be either deaf or going deaf. A lot of owners report that their puppy seems stubborn or difficult to train. It’s because they’re deaf.

With older animals, sometimes you’ll notice that they aren’t reacting when you get home anymore when you open the door or even if they don’t react to fireworks like they used to.

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Your veterinarian can look inside the ear canal to spot those masses or conductive problems. In order to diagnose the neural problems we can do a BAER test (brainstem auditory evoked response), which objectively measures whether or not your animal can hear.

“Keep in mind that deaf animals can still make great pets. If your cat is deaf you certainly want to keep it indoors. For dogs you want to teach them to respond to hand signals. There are even collars that gently vibrate on the dog’s neck to get them to look at you.”

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Scarlett assures the collars aren’t painful and are simply a way of getting your pet to look for visual cues.