Everyday life can be not only challenging but also dangerous for people with disabilities, especially when they are unable to see or hear their surroundings. Sometimes staying at home and being unable to understand what is going on due to physical or mental disorders can be as dangerous as going outside. Many people decide to rely on service dogs in order to get provided with emotional or physical support.
In this article, we will get a closer look at the assistance that hearing dogs provide to individuals with hearing impairments.
First, we would like to explain what the term “Hearing Dogs” means.
What Are Hearing Dogs?
Hearing dogs are service dogs specially trained to help deaf individuals/individuals with hearing impairments. These dogs alert their handlers to certain sounds in their surroundings whether at home, at work, or while in public. Hearing dogs are trained to meet the particular needs of their handler. Some of the most common sounds that hearing dogs are trained to alert their handlers to are:
Fire alarms, sirens, timers (clock, cooker...etc.), phone/doorbell ringing, knocking on the door, crying of a baby, when someone addresses them by name...etc.
Hearing dogs can be trained to recognize different sounds in their handler’s environment, that are important for their daily routine.
What Tasks Are Hearing Dogs Trained to Perform?
Usually hearing dogs alert their handlers to certain sounds by leading them to the source of the sound, jumping on them or making some kind of physical contact like nudging, licking, pawing at them, sitting, or laying down. We need to make a difference to other service dogs, specially trained to bark when certain circumstances occur, as barking as an action would be meaningless to hearing-impaired people.
Hearing Dogs Access Rights
As service dogs hearing dogs are granted all accommodation access rights that service dogs and guide dogs have.
What Are the Benefits From Having a Hearing Dog?
The first and most important is the feeling of safety that a hearing dog provides to its handler. A hearing dog can actually save their handler from a dangerous situation that may occur in their surroundings. If you feel anxious about the things that could potentially happen outside your home and you avoid going outside, a hearing dog can return your confidence. Moreover, a hearing dog will be beneficial for you even when you are at home since you will be always aware of important sounds like when the doorbell rings or water boils.
A hearing dog can help you regain your confidence and self-esteem. Living with a physical disability may have a very negative impact on the person’s self-confidence and make them feel isolated from the world. Being accompanied by a hearing dog will help you feel a part of the world and all the things that happen. If you have been feeling depressed, anxious, and lonely for a long time, the presence of a hearing dog may help you overcome these feelings.
Regaining your confidence is directly related to improving your social skills. After overcoming the fear of what the world will bring to you, you may find a way to interact with people and make new friendships. Gradually you will beat the feeling of isolation.
The more often you go out for walks with your hearing dog the easier will be for you to keep yourself in a good shape. The regular walks with your hearing dog will improve not only your emotional but your physical state as well. You will feel more energetic and lighten up.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a Hearing Dog?
Costs to get a trained hearing dog can be prohibitively for many people, as they can reach $20.000 or more. However, there are some organizations that adopt shelter dogs in order to train them as assistance dogs who help people with hearing impairments without any charges to the individual. Other organizations rely on donations or share the raise and training costs with the recipients. Covering all costs for training and raising a hearing dog can dissuade many people from having such a dog. Fortunately, there is another way to get a hearing dog.
Train Your Own Hearing Dog
Yes, it is possible to train your own hearing dog. Their many courses you can enroll in order to get familiar with the main techniques for hearing dog training. The US Federal laws guarantee accommodation access rights both professionally or individually trained hearing dogs and their owners. If you have decided to train your own service dog you need to be patient and choose the most suitable breed for you. Since you will rely on your hearing dog on a daily basis you need to build a strong bond with him/her.
Most Suitable Breeds as Hearing Dogs
As already explained hearing dogs alert their handlers by making physical contact, as barking would be meaningless in this case. With that in mind, you will not be surprised to know that best hearing dog breeds should be energetic and alert as well as very adaptive to different environmental situations. They should be able to recognize noises important to their handler and to differentiate them from background noises. Best hearing dogs should manage to react quickly and adequately. In addition, they should be very reliable and with strong obedience and social skills. Some of the most suitable dog breeds as hearing dogs are:
Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Cocker Spaniels Poodles, Cockapoos.
The representatives of these breeds are friendly, they have a stable temperament, they are energetic, but remain focused on the particular task they need to perform and understand easily what they are expected to do. They get along with strange people and show great social skills while in public.
The Importance of the Bond Between a Hearing Dog and His/Her Handler
You need to choose carefully a dog who will match your needs and lifestyle. The bond between a dog and a handler is crucial when making a decision to have a hearing dog. The social life of the person, the place where they live as well as the presence of other pets in the house are important factors that need to be considered when choosing a hearing service dog (or a service dog in general)
How Can a Hearing Dog Be Identified
Unfortunately, a hearing dog can not be identified as service dogs are not required to wear an identification vest and their handlers do not have visible disabilities. This might cause some difficulties for the individual while in public, as they may need to answer various questions.