Dogs & Loud Noises… Are Ear Plugs Necessary?

At the IHRA drag races I attended last month, I photographed several dogs who were accompanying their owners to the races.

The dogs belonged to drag racers and their families who tend to travel with their pets from race to race. In the IHRA drag racing series, there are usually 11 or so races each year — which means a lot of time on the road, and a lot of loud noises for the dogs.


black-and-tan-miniature-daschund-at-races.jpg brindle-miniature-daschund.jpg

This led me to wonder… do dogs need ear protection?

What if I take my dog to a race someday? Are there doggie earplugs or something that we should consider?

Our Dogs At Drag Races

We actually took our Black Lab/Golden Retriever, Destin to the races a couple years ago — when he was a puppy.

He did fine.

The loud noises & people didn’t bother him a bit.

Now, it’s looking like we might be taking our other dog, Tenor (a 2 year old Black Lab/Great Pyrenees), to drag racing events in the near future as well. If we sell our house & travel around the world in an RV while our log home is being built, then we’ll have no choice but to go to the races with Jim.

Drag Races: One Of The Loudest Sports

In case you aren’t familiar with the professional sport of drag racing

The “thrill of the event” is watching (and listening to) loud, thunderous race cars with engines that are powered by Nitro fuel — as evidenced by the smell in the air and the flames shooting out the sides of the cars.

The climax is the moment two cars bolt side-by-side down a quarter-mile straight-line track at speeds topping 300 mph.

This all takes place in less than 10 seconds.

Then, the next 2 cars in line repeat the same chain of events. And so on, and so on.

For the record, drag racing events aren’t the only sport that could affect a dog’s hearing. Think: hunting and other forms of shooting.

We tend to protect our own hearing at events like these… what about our dog’s?


Do Loud Noises Affect Dogs?… What The Experts Say

destin-at-his-first-drag-racing-event.jpgI could only find 2 cases where the hearing loss of dogs due to loud noises was either being studied or treated. Few “experts” are addressing the effect of loud noises on a dog’s ears.

In one study, Mississippi State veterinary faculty members, clinicians and students are trying to demonstrate whether a hunting dog’s frequent exposure to gunshots can progressively damage its hearing.

Preliminary results from the study:

While a healthy Lab begins to hear sounds at about 10 or 15 decibels–much like a healthy human–Mackin said one test animal that has been heavily exposed to gunshots didn’t respond until 60 decibels, which is quite loud … The research group also includes Dr. David Jennings, a neurologist, and Dr. Amy Janda, a small animal intern, as well as two veterinary students. Janda said the sound at 60 decibels is comparable to half the noise of a jet engine.”

And their preliminary conclusion:

Perhaps in the future we will recommend the same precautions for hunting dogs as for hunters, including earplugs.”

ESPN reports the final results of the study as follows:

The Labradors chronically exposed to gun blasts through routine duck hunting did in fact have a decrease in their hearing responses. Through testing of brain wave response to specific noise levels, these Labradors showed a three-fold decrease in ability to hear soft noises. Based on testing results, these hunting Labradors were not able to hear the whisper of a human voice.”

Ear Protection For Dogs

So.. do dogs need ear protection to prevent loud noises form damaging their ears?

Yep… just like humans do.

The problem is, there aren’t a lot of dog-friendly ear plugs available on the market yet. You could try stuffing cotton balls into your dog’s ears. Or use “human” sponge-like foam earplugs (…that work very well for people by the way). I’ve even heard of dog owners fitting a piece of pillow foam (from seat cushions, mattress toppers, and pillows) inside your dog’s ear canal.

doggie-earplugs-under-chin.jpgdoggie-earplugs-over-ears.jpgFor the record, we’re not the first to try those bright orange foam-like earplugs on a dog. (They’re the same tension-based disposable ear plugs with foam plugs that are routinely sold at loud sporting events.)

Unfortunately, most dogs can’t stand the flimsy plastic headpiece hovering above their head, or hanging below their chin… and they just “paw” at it or shake their heads vigorously to get it off. (Our dog kept it on longer than other dogs we’ve seen at the racetrack did.)

But thankfully there is one very good product called Mutt Muffs. They are the world’s only over-the-head hearing protector for animals. Mutt Muffs were created by pilots “who know the noise level of the cockpit is unsafe for man or beast”.

pilot-with-dog-wearing-mutt-muffs.jpg big-dog-wearing-mutt-muffs.jpg

Do you really need to buy a product like Mutt Muffs? Check out their FAQ.

Lynnette Walczak

Lynnette Walczak

I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money -- so I frequently write about "outside the box" ideas that most wouldn't think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed several years until switching gears to pursue things I was more passionate about. I've worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo -- to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun websites).

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  • Ebon

    This article was very helpful. I was thinking of taking my puppy flying very soon and I didn’t even think about the noise level possibly causing damage to her ears. Mutt Muffs don’t sound like a bad idea, but How sure can I be of their effectiveness?

  • Labrad-areo

    I’ve got mutt muffs for my lab and flying. They work well, but he usually will work them off his ears. I can’t do much about it cuz I have a plane to fly, but it works for an hour or two and they fit well and block the noise. (I put em on myself to try 8>) ).

    • FunTimesGuide

      @ Labrad-areo – Awesome! Thanks for sharing how Mutt Muffs doggie ear muffs work for you and your dog. I always like hearing from others who’ve tried them 😀

  • B_willems

    I am pleased to see attention being placed on the subject of dogs hearing and the effects of the sounds they hear when we take them with us, where ever we take them. I would like to see more of the results from testing, like sound levels and waveshapes causing temporary threshold shifts and permanant threshold shifts in hearing response. Additionally this article points out some methods to lessen the impacts and it would be “icing on the cake” to state how effective they are in reducing the sound. Of coarse, if the dog won’t wear them, they don’t do anything; however, it would be worse to think they are doing something when they are not.