Hearing Dogs for People with Hearing Loss

Most people have heard of “seeing eye dogs” or dogs that have been trained to assist people with limited or no vision.  Did you know that there are also dogs trained to assist people with hearing loss?  They are known as hearing dogs, and they may be able to help you retain your independence.

What Hearing Dogs Do

Hearing dogs are specially trained to assist people with hearing loss or no hearing at all.  They can help around the house with things like alerting:

  • A telephone ring
  • A doorbell
  • An alarm clock
  • A kitchen timer
  • A teakettle whistle
  • A baby’s cry

In addition, the presence of a hearing dog can make someone with hearing loss feel safer living alone as well as provide companionship.

What Dogs Make the Best Hearing Dogs?

Any breed of dog can be trained as a hearing dog.  Lots of hearing dogs are mixed breeds as well.  The most important thing is not the dog’s breed but the dog’s temperament and health. A good hearing dog is:

  • Naturally drawn to sound
  • Quick to respond to sound and commands
  • Naturally high energy.

Since hearing dogs are service dogs, they need to have a strong work ethic as well. Because the dog will go out in public, it also needs to be calm in crowds and to handle stress and noise in new situations.  Some hearing dog programs train dogs rescued from shelters that meet these criteria.

How do you Know if a Hearing Dog is Right for You?

Hearing dogs aren’t for everyone.  If you are afraid of dogs or don’t want the responsibility of caring for a service animal, then a hearing dog is not for you.  But, there are more things to consider than an inherent like or dislike of dogs.  You should ask yourself the following types of questions as well.

If you think a hearing dog would be a practical way to help you with your hearing loss, you should begin your search.   If you already own a dog, is it going to allow your hearing dog to work without interfering? If not, are you prepared to give your current dog up? In many instances, it is best not to place a hearing dog in a home where dogs currently live.

Hearing Dogs for People with Hearing Loss

Have Patience?  When you go out in public, people are going to stare and ask questions.   Do you have the patience and temperament to deal with questions or assert yourself if denied right to public access?  As hearing dogs are relatively new, people will have questions, and people might not understand that your hearing dog is allowed access to any place you have access.  Do you have the patience for this? If your hearing loss makes it hard to communicate with others, a hearing dog might not be for you.

Have Family?  If you currently live with people that have trained themselves to alert you to sounds, will it be hard for them to change their habits? If the need arises, do you have trustworthy family or friends that can care for your dog if you are not able?  Can family members adjust to having a dog that is not a pet? Will they be able to live with restrictions on playing with the dog or otherwise distracting it from its job?

Have Resources?  Are you financially able to pay for the food, vet bills, medication and grooming if necessary?  Do you have the time to feed, walk, and toilet a dog?  A hearing dog is a great assistant, but they are also like having a small child.  The needs of the dog often come first. Finally, do you have the space for a hearing dog? The dog will need a place to exercise, play, and perform toilet duty.  Do you have enough space in your home or is the space readily available in your neighborhood?

Where Do You Get Hearing Dogs?

If you think a hearing dog would be a practical way to help you with your hearing loss, you should begin your search.  Many organizations have hearing dogs, but they also have waiting lists.  Dogs for the Deaf, Canine Companions, and Hearing Dogs International are all great places to start your search.  You can also check with local dog rescue shelters to find if there is an organization that trains hearing dogs in your city.