A couple of weeks ago I started to wonder whether Nozomi was ignoring me. She'd be lying under my desk for her afternoon nap and I'd chat with her every so often only to get no response. Not even a glance. When she would sit outside, I'd call her from around the house and she wouldn't move an iota until she saw me come around the corner. If in the afternoon I felt the need to stretch my legs outside a bit, I'd ask Nozomi if she wanted to go for a walk in the park — both words she knows very well — only to be met with silence. However, it seemed that rather than ignoring me, she wasn't aware that I was speaking. The biggest hint that something was awry would be the way she'd act surprised every time she saw me, as though I were consistently silent.
Ten days ago we went to the vet and they confirmed my suspicions: Nozomi has gone deaf. Not completely, mind you, but anything quieter than a sneeze has become imperceptible. According to the vet, the early signs of impending deafness would have started years ago. Typically one ear goes, and then the other. During this time Nozomi would have shown signs of looking the wrong way when being spoken to, or rubbing her ears on the ground as though something were caught in her fur. She did both of these things, but I chalked it up to Nozomi being a dog and doing bizarre things like one would expect from a dog. None of her previous medical checkups said anything about her hearing, but this was also something that wasn't explicitly tested.
Nozomi, being the optimistic girl that she is, doesn't seem to mind the lack of sound. She's still able to do most of the things she loves and, while she does appear to get startled more often as people enter her field of vision without warning, there doesn't seem to be any sign of depression or anxiety on her part. What's interesting is that the vet said that Nozomi would probably respond more to touch than previously, and he was right. Nozomi's always enjoyed physical contact, but lately she seems to want tummy rubs and snout scratches a lot more.
Nozomi's mental state aside, I've been quite disappointed in myself for not noticing the signs sooner. She's always done silly things, like one would expect from a dachshund, but she's never ignored an opportunity for a walk in the park or the sound of her kibble bag being opened. While I doubt there's much that could have been done to save her hearing, particularly during the recent COVID shutdown, her health is my responsibility. I should have known that something wasn't quite right and brought her in for some tests earlier.
Despite our genetic differences, Nozomi and I can generally communicate well enough with each other. She knows my hand signs that signal food, or exercise, or general directions. I also know how to read her eyes and general body language to understand what it is that she's looking for. That said, it's very unfortunate that she might not hear any of her favourite words ever again.