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Hearing Dogs Help Owners in a Silent World

Imagine yourself in a silent world. You can't hear the ring of a telephone or a knock at the door. Even danger signals - the shriek of a smoke alarm or the rustlings of a prowler - go unnoticed. For someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, the feelings of vulnerability and isolation can be overwhelming. And having to depend on mechanical devices or other people to be alerted to everyday sounds can be frustrating. Now imagine that you have a dedicated hearing dog assistant who can alert you to these important sounds.

Hearing dogs are trained to alert their guardians to a knock at the door, the ring of a doorbell, a telephone/TDD, an alarm clock, a tea kettle whistle, a smoke alarm and even an oven timer. These canine companions provide a new sense of security, companionship and independence for their deaf and hard of hearing guardians. Proudly wearing their bright colored vests, they enjoy the same public access rights as guide dogs for the blind.


The Training


Each dog goes through months of comprehensive training using positive reinforcement techniques. The trainers teach the dogs a technique called "sound keying." The dogs run from their trainer to the source of the sound, then run back to the trainer and make body contact to alert him or her to the sound. In response to a smoke alarm or alarm clock, hearing dogs are taught to jump onto a bed or couch in order to wake up a sleeping person. This is done using physical contact or sloppy kisses. The dogs are also given basic obedience training and taught how to understand both voice and sign language commands.


For more information about hearing dogs or hearing dog programs in your area, contact your local humane society.