Dogs are man’s best friend for so many reasons—wagging tails, happy tongues, and unconditional love and loyalty are just a few of the traits that pups bring to humans. Dogs and humans have spent the last few millennia evolving together, so it’s no surprise that dogs are perfect animals to help people with hearing loss. You’ve probably hearing of Seeing Eye dogs but did you know there are specially-trained dogs for the hearing impaired?
Service dogs for hearing help
Deafness or severe hearing loss can be potentially dangerous for people just trying to live their lives—so that’s where the dogs come in. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), a dog’s hearing is hundreds of times better than ours for high-pitched sounds. For many people with hearing loss, high-pitched noises are the first to go, so service dogs can really shine.
What can a service dog do?
A service dog for the hearing impaired are trained to assist their owners in many different ways. They can alert their owner, using physical touch like a nudge, to important sounds like a smoke alarm, a doorbell, an alarm clock, a telephone, or even a baby’s cry. Dogs are often trained to lead their owners to the source of the sound, so you’re not left wondering what is making that noise.
Outside the home, hearing dogs are also helpful. Similar to guide dogs, hearing dogs are trained not to react to noises like car horns or be distracted by other people on the sidewalk. Having a dog with such control can help their owner feel much safer and in control when outside.
Hearing dogs are especially attuned to noise, so their owner can ascertain a lot about their environment by watching the dog’s visual cues—for example, a person with hearing loss will not hear someone approaching them from behind, but their dog will hear and alert them.
What kinds of dogs are hearing dogs and where can I get one?
Many different types of dogs can be trained as hearing dogs. The AKC states that:
“[m]any are rescued from shelters; others come from professional breeders. While hearing dogs come in all kennel classes and varieties, certain purebreds are also well-suited to the role. These include Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Poodles and Cocker Spaniels. Because hearing dogs are best active and alert, many are a terrier mix. Pedigree is, however, far less important than trainability and a temperament ideally suited to the work.”
There are many different programs that train dogs to be great partners for people with hearing loss. If you’re interested in getting a hearing dog for yourself or someone else, Assistance Dogs International is a great place to start. They can help you find the nearest hearing dog program that works best for you. Other hearing dogs programs include:
NEADS World Class Service Dogs
Canine Companions for Independence (CCI)