BATON ROUGE, La. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- How's your dog's hearing? You may not realize it, but congenital deafness shows up in dog breeds from Dalmatians to Jack Russell's. Your dog can't tell you he's hard of hearing, but now, science may have found a better way to detect canine hearing problems.
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"We've been together about eight years … almost nine years," graduate student Jenny Lagergren says of her dog Francis.
She knows Francis is special.
"Actually, at the animal shelter I got him at, he holds the record of being there the longest of any dog," she told Ivanhoe.
There's a reason. The same reason Lagergren taps him on the shoulder to get his attention … Francis is deaf.
George Strain, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge, La., has spent years studying congenital canine deafness, which occurs in as many as 90 breeds -- most commonly in Dalmatians.
"It essentially has to do with white coloration of the skin, which has to do with most deafness in dogs, and breeders want their puppies tested and the older dogs tested before they breed to make sure they don't transfer this hereditary deafness," Dr. Strain explained.
This is the brain stem auditory evoked response or baer test. It checks dogs' hearing using tiny electrodes placed in the scalp.
"This was first developed for humans and this has been used for years on newborns in hospitals to make sure they have hearing," Dr. Strain said.
Brain activity from a hearing dog like Sophie shows peaks. For a hearing impaired or deaf dog, the line is almost flat. Though this test is accurate, the device costs as much as $25,000 dollars -- too much for many veterinarians to afford.
"He can't tell us whether he hears or not, so we have to find that with something objective," Dr. Strain said.
At just $4,000 - $6,000, this hand-held otoacoustic emission test could be the answer.
"It turns out when you put a sound into the ear of any animal, the ear will actually produce a low volume frequency tone back out," Dr. Strain said.
So if this otoacoustic emission tone is heard, the dog can hear. It's already used in screening for babies. Dr. strain says it holds promise for canines as well to make sure their hearing problems don't go undetected.
LSU researchers hope to publish findings showing the effectiveness of the new dog hearing test in the next few months. Veterinarians could be using the test within the next few years.
The Acoustical Society of America contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.