How to Know If Your Rabbit is Deaf

is your rabbit deaf?

Most of the time, rabbits are highly reactive to sounds. Whether it’s a loud sound, an unusual sound, or the slight crinkle of a treat bag, rabbits are quick to notice the sound and come running (or run away). So, if your rabbit doesn’t respond to these things, or if they stopped responding, it’s fully possible that your rabbit is deaf or hard of hearing. However, it is important to note that rabbits can also be very good at hiding signs of deafness, so it may be difficult to tell if they are deaf.

Since some rabbits are pretty chilled out and can’t be bothered with loud sounds, this isn’t the only test to see if they are having trouble with their hearing. You can also see how frequently your rabbit is startled when you come near, or how much their ears swivel around as if following the sounds in the room.

There are other signs that may indicate that your rabbit is deaf, such as constantly flopped ears or unresponsive behavior. In some cases, deafness can be caused by underlying health conditions such as ear infections or parasites. It is important to take your rabbit to a veterinarian if you suspect they are deaf or experiencing hearing loss to rule out any underlying health issues.

If you suspect your rabbit has a hearing problem, it is recommended you consult with a veterinarian. Hearing issues can stem from a variety of causes, including infection, age, or genetic factors. It is important to determine the cause to provide proper care for your rabbit.

rabbit hears a loud sound

1. They do not react to new or loud sounds

Rabbits have a keen sense of hearing, so when they don’t show any reaction to auditory stimuli, it could be a red flag. New or loud noises, such as clapping hands or dropping a heavy book, trigger an immediate response in almost all rabbits.

Behavior to watch for includes:

  • No ear movement: They usually pivot their ears towards new sounds.
  • Lack of startle response: A loud noise will typically make a rabbit jump or run for cover.
  • Absence of curiosity: Rabbits often investigate novel sounds.

If a rabbit remains still and unbothered by sounds that would otherwise be noticeable, it’s pretty likely that they are experiencing hearing issues. They might not be completely deaf, but there is probably some level of reduced hearing.

You can perform simple tests at home to assess your rabbit’s hearing; however, it’s important to remember that sudden loud noises can be very stressful, so any sound-based tests should be conducted with care.

2. They don’t wake up when you enter the room

Normally, rabbits are highly alert creatures. A rabbit with good hearing will typically wake up or become attentive as soon as someone enters the space they are living in. If a rabbit does not respond to the presence of a person, it can suggest a hearing issue. This is not as clear of an indication as the above since some rabbits really are that relaxed, but it can mean that your rabbit is partially deaf or hard of hearing.

If a rabbit can sleep through various noises and the typical hustle and bustle of people entering or exiting their room, this may warrant a visit to the vet to confirm whether the rabbit is experiencing hearing challenges.

come when called a short distance away

3. They don’t come running when you shake their favorite treat

A rabbit who does not react to sound cues associated with feeding may also indicate hearing problems. Normally, the sound of shaking treats is like an aural magnet for a healthy, hearing rabbit.. if a rabbit doesn’t come hopping over when you shake a container of their favorite treats, it might be cause for concern. 

Test this by rustling or shaking the treat bag in a quiet environment: Make sure there are no loud background noises interfering. You can also try repeating the shake test at different times of day outside of your normal routine when your rabbit doesn’t normally expect treats.

It’s important not to jump to conclusions after just one test. Consider that your rabbit might not be hungry, or they could simply be in a deep sleep. However, if their lack of response is consistent, it could indicate a hearing issue.

Note: if your rabbit isn’t coming for treats, it can also be a sign that they are not feeling well. If you’re worried, try putting a small treat in front of their nose to make sure they’re still excited to eat it.

4. They get startled easily

When rabbits are unable to hear, they won’t have the usual pre-warning of someone approaching, which can result in them becoming startled more easily than a rabbit with normal hearing would. They may not notice you until you are already very close, and the sudden appearance can cause panic or alarm. To mitigate this, you can learn to flicker the lights to notify them of your presence.

Some rabbits compensate for their lack of hearing by becoming more sensitive to vibrations. They might rely on floor vibrations to alert them to someone’s approach, deaf rabbits will still have a more pronounced startle response to unexpected physical touch.

Deaf rabbits might also show increased aggression when they are startled as a defensive mechanism. If they cannot hear you coming, you may scare them, leading them to swat, bite, or growl at you before they realize who you are.

5. They don’t swivel their ears to listen to anything

Rabbits are known for their acute sense of hearing, which is crucial for their survival. One of their notable behaviors is swiveling their ears to pinpoint the origin of a sound. If your rabbit does not swivel its ears in response to sounds, this might indicate a hearing issue. 

Typically, a rabbit will turn its ears towards a sound to hear it more effectively. This can be observed when they hear unfamiliar noises or when you call their name. The absence of this ear movement could suggest that the rabbit is not processing auditory information as it should.

Observe your rabbit’s ears when a noise is made intentionally. Unless your rabbit is asleep or they are very familiar with the sound, they should swivel one of their ears toward the sound. Ears that remain stationary and do not orient towards sounds can indicate your rabbit did not hear it.

holland lop rabbit

Lop rabbits are more likely to be hard of hearing

Lop-eared rabbits are at a greater risk for conditions that may impact their hearing. Of the rabbit’s me and my family have cared for, it was two lop rabbits that developed hearing problems. Anecdotally, I’ve also heard many more stories of lop rabbits losing their hearing than uppity-eared rabbits. 

This is likely because lop rabbits are more likely to develop ear conditions that can impact their hearing (such as ear infections), and their ears’ shape can hinder sound waves from easily reaching the inner ear. Studies have indicated that lop-eared rabbits can be more prone to health issues such as narrowed ear canals, excess wax build up, and ear pain, which can all affect their hearing ability. 

Caretakers who suspect their lop rabbit may be hard of hearing should consult a vet for a proper diagnosis and care guidance. It’s vital to monitor their well-being closely to ensure they continue to live a healthy and comfortable life, despite any potential hearing challenges.


  1. Chivers BD, Keeler MRD, Burn CC (2023) “Ear health and quality of life in pet rabbits of differing ear conformations: A UK survey of owner-reported signalment risk factors and effects on rabbit welfare and behaviour.” PLOS ONE 18(7). July 19, 2023.
  2. “Lop-eared rabbits more likely to suffer from ear and dental problems, study confirms for first time.” Royal Veterinary College. June 21, 2019.

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Amy Pratt

Amy Pratt is a lifelong rabbit owner who has been specializing with rabbits at the Humane Rescue Alliance. She helps to socialize the rabbits and educate volunteers on the care and behavior of these small mammals.

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