Nov 27 , 2019
You’re probably familiar with guide dogs or seeing eye dogs – a type of service dog used by the blind to help them navigate the world. But guide dogs are not the only kind of service dog. Hearing service dogs are used by the deaf or hard of hearing to alert them to common sounds so they can more safely and easily live their everyday lives.
Understanding Service Animals
Service animal is a broad term used to describe any animal trained specifically to work or perform tasks to assist an individual with a disability. Dogs are by far the most common type of service animal. They are already the most popular household pet and are easily trained.
Service animals are protected under the law, and they are allowed in any public facility or private business. They are often wearing an identifying vest to alert people that it is a service animal, but they are not required to do so.
Service animals and hearing dogs may be cute, but they are performing a serious job. Never pet a service animal unless you ask first and are given explicit permission.
The Job of Hearing Dogs
Hearing dogs help people who are deaf navigate the world around them by being their “ears”, alerting them to common sounds such as smoke detectors, doorbells, alarms, a ringing phone, or even a baby’s cry. When one of these sounds occurs, the hearing dog will nudge the owner to get their attention. They may even lead their owner towards the source of the sound.
A hearing dog can give people who are deaf or hard of hearing the freedom to live independently. They help their owners stay safe and in tune with the world around them.
Training a Hearing Dog
Not every dog can be trained to be a hearing dog. A dog must have a specific temperament and natural traits to be successfully trained. A dog should be attentive to sound, alert, hardworking, friendly, calm, focused, confident, and trainable.
Any breed can technically be a hearing dog if it has these traits, but most hearing dogs are small to medium sized mixed breeds. Certain breeds, such as labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, poodles, cocker spaniels, and terrier mixes, are also common hearing dog breeds.
Once a dog has been identified with the necessary traits, the dog must be appropriately and expertly trained. This is not something an individual can do. Instead, a hearing dog is trained by a service dog organization. Assistance Dogs International can help you find a hearing dog provider near you.
Is a Hearing Dog for You?
A hearing dog cannot replace a hearing aids for those with severe hearing loss. Instead, hearing dogs help their owners feel safer and more confident about living independently. They also provide important emotional support and companionship, since being deaf or hard of hearing can be isolating and lonely. If you are considering a hearing dog, speak to your audiologist today to see if it would be a good fit for you.