These days, many of us turn to furry four-legged friends for comfort, support, and entertainment. That being said, while many of us enjoy the companionship of a pet, many people rely on the aid of a service dog just to be able to fully participate in modern society.
When most people think of an assistance or working dog, they think of a police dog working in an airport or a guide dog helping visually impaired people cross a street. But did you know that dogs can be trained to help people who are deaf or hard of hearing?
While a guide dog allows blind individuals to go about their day to day life independently and confidently, a hearing assistance dog can provide deaf and hard of hearing people with the same benefits. Here, we’ll take a look at the benefits that a hearing assistance dog can provide.
Service Animal Training And Recruitment
If you’ve ever seen a service animal at work, you’ll know that they’re no average pup. Accredited assistance dogs are trained by a variety of different organizations around the world. In North America alone, over 4,300 assistance dogs were matched with new owners in 2013 and 2014 and are now hard at work providing guide, mobility, hearing, and other services.
Hearing assistance dog training starts when a potential pup is identified as a suitable candidate for a service animal position. Generally, these dogs are found at animal shelters and must be people-oriented, friendly, energetic, comfortable in public, and food- or treat-motivated so they’re easy to train. Many organizations look for small to medium breed and mixes; this is the size that many people seeking a service animal prefer.
After months or years of training with a reputable organization, trained hearing assistance dogs are matched with potential new owners. Now, the assistance dog’s work begins.
Hearing Assistance Dog Roles
As the name suggests, a hearing assistance dog helps a deaf or hard of hearing person understand the sounds around them. While these dogs generally aren’t trained to react to these noises, they are trained to alert their owner to the sound with a nudge after which they will often direct them to the source of the sound.
Whether it’s an alarm clock, doorbell, telephone, or fire alarm, a hearing assistance dog can help a deaf or hard of hearing person better understand the environment around them. While a hearing assistance dog can help someone do something as benign as respond to a kitchen timer so they don’t burn their dinner, these dogs can also be critical in helping a someone respond to the squeal of a smoke detector.
Who Benefits From Hearing Assistance Dogs
Generally speaking, hearing assistance dogs are only available to people who are profoundly deaf or meet a baseline minimum of hearing loss. Many organizations require that potential owners get an audiogram, which is then reviewed by an in-house audiologist to ensure suitability for the program.
If you believe that you or a loved one might benefit from a hearing assistance dog, the first step is to reach out to a reputable organization and begin the application process. Many organizations have a 1-2 year wait (or longer) for a hearing assistance dog, so if you’re ready to take on the commitment of caring for a canine partner, it’s best to apply sooner rather than later.