A New Leash on Life – Hearing Dogs for Deaf People

Published: Apr 18th, 2016

Hearing dog walking along with trainer

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People is a charity based in Buckinghamshire that is tackling the issue of deafness from a different angle – through the training and provision of intelligent dogs who are specifically trained with deafness in mind.

These dogs not only provide practical assistance by alerting deaf people to important sounds that they would otherwise miss, they also provide invaluable companionship, confidence and independence to someone in need.

Hearing Dog Training To Improve Social Inclusion & Communication

Hearing dogs are trained to alert a deaf person to important sounds such as the doorbell, telephone, alarm clock and smoke alarm amongst many others. They accompany their owner both in the home, and in public places such as shops, restaurants and on public transport. As deafness is an invisible disability, simply by wearing their identifiable burgundy jackets, these clever dogs are a signal to the public that their handler has hearing difficulties. This can help enormously with social inclusion and communication.

The training of a hearing dog is a very specialist process, which starts when the puppies are around eight weeks old. It is completed with their unique ‘soundwork’ training which they enjoy from around 12 to 14 months. Each dog completing their ‘soundwork’ training is matched very carefully to a deaf person.

Creating Life-Changing Partnerships

The charity takes into consideration a number of factors to ensure a partnership will work effectively for both the deaf person and the dog. Primary factors include lifestyle, environment and personality. Currently the charity supports over 870 hearing dog partnerships throughout the UK, including 28 child partnerships.

Sophie sat down with her hearing dog rustySophie Biebuyck, a 30 year-old from Essex started to lose her hearing when she was 24, and she is now profoundly deaf. She became dependent on hearing aids, and struggled to communicate. However, since being partnered with Rusty through Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, her life has changed for the better. 

Sophie says:

“Deafness can make even the simplest of everyday tasks challenging. Just waking up in the morning is difficult when you can’t hear an alarm. Being out and about used to leave me feeling very vulnerable; I cannot hear ambient sound like passing traffic or people behind me.

“My hearing dog Rusty has transformed my life. Apart from his amazing alerts to sounds at home, he gives me great confidence when out and about in Essex. By wearing his uniform, people can see that I am deaf. I have noticed a huge difference in the way people talk to me, and my experiences when out and about are now so much more positive.

“Rusty is my best friend and perfect companion. I really don’t know what I would do without him. We are completely inseparable. Rusty has given me a positive focus in life, given me the confidence to talk openly about my disability and therefore made the world a much more welcoming place.”

Benefits of Having a Hearing Dog

Hearing dogs can bring a whole new level of independence and confidence to people with deafness. The isolation, loneliness and sometimes even depression that can result from hearing loss can be remedied by the practical assistance and companionship provided by a specially trained hearing dog. Hearing Dogs for Deaf People guarantees ongoing support for the entire lifetime of your hearing dog partnership, so you can rest assured you’re in good hands for the future.

Hearing Dog Breeds

A volunteer holding a hearing dog puppyHearing Dogs for Deaf People have their own Kennel Club Approved breeding scheme, whilst some of their dogs come from reputable breeders. The main breeds they work with are Labradors, Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, Golden Retrievers and cross breeds like Cockapoos.

All of these breeds have their own unique traits, but most importantly, they have the right temperament and health to meet the high standards required to be a hearing dog. Any dog that doesn’t pass the training for soundwork is often given the role of a Confidence and Companion dog, whilst others go on to be hospice dogs or sniffer dogs.

How to Get a Hearing Dog

If you would like to apply for a hearing dog, you can contact Hearing Dogs for Deaf People directly. The charity will send you an Enquiry pack which contains all the information you need to know about hearing dogs and how they can help. You will need to send a copy of your hearing test results so they can confirm your eligibility and from there you will be given details on how to continue with the application process.

For more information about Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, including how to apply for your own hearing dog, please visit www.hearingdogs.org.uk

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