The world is a better place for hearing dogs and this article goes some way to explaining why.
You may or may not be familiar with Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. This is a charitable organisation which trains dogs to alert deaf people to sounds they would otherwise miss. These could be the simplest of noises that many of us take for granted – like the doorbell ringing or an alarm clock going.
Thanks to the ability of the hearing dog, this can make a transformational difference to the lives of many people suffering from deafness.
But these exceptional canines offer so much more. Since deafness can be very isolating, hearing dogs also help restore a person’s confidence, giving them a sense of independence and providing constant companionship.
And, yes, hearing dogs really do save lives and keep their deaf companions out of harm’s way. For instance, where a fire has started in the middle of the night, triggering an alarm inaudible to the person with hearing loss, but where the trained dog has been able to alert them to imminent danger.
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People started out in 1982 and, since then, they have matched countless dogs with deaf recipients. Currently, the organisation is responsible for getting for a thousand hearing dog partnerships throughout Britain.
A Long-Term Objective
The aim is that once a deaf person is partnered with a dog, they are matched for life. Each dog is normally retired around the age of 11, whereupon a replacement dog takes its place. Often the “pensioned off” dog is kept as a pet by the deaf person.
It costs around £40,000 to train and support each hearing dog through its working life – which is why the charity is so reliant on donations from its many supporters.
It is no easy feat matching a deaf person with a hearing dog. There’s so much that needs to be taken into consideration.
For instance, it wouldn’t be a smart move to pair an elderly lady with a bouncy young Labrador – far better to seek out an active 30-year old into jogging and an outdoor lifestyle.
The Training Process
Once a potential client with hearing loss has completed their application, they will be added to a waiting list for a trainer. When one becomes available, Hearing Dogs pair the new client with an approved personal dog trainer.
The deaf person is then coached to train their pet dog using modern, safe, reward-based training techniques. This would usually take place in the familiarity of the home environment.
The key to success is the client’s commitment to practising daily training so that the dog slowly but surely learns what’s required. At the same time, a strong bond starts to develop between the pair. This process can take between one and two years. All immensely rewarding.
Since 2006, South East Hearing Care Centres has regularly sponsored a Hearing Dog through its training journey before beginning its new life working with a deaf person. Learn more about the latest Hearing Dogs puppy we are supporting, Zara, at https://www.hearingcarecentres.co.uk/charities/