There’s no question why dogs are called a man’s best friend. They’re loyal, smart, cute, and provide unconditional love. Not only do these qualities make dogs the most popular household pet, but for some, these furry friends are more than just a companion. They’re lifesavers, too, providing safety for individuals with disabilities. Yet many people don’t know about hearing service dogs.
What are service dogs?
A service animal helps someone with a disability complete essential tasks so they can independently participate in everyday life. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is defined as a dog that has been trained to do work directly related to a person’s disability. There are different service dog training categories. Most people know guide dogs help people with sight issues, but another service dog group is hearing dogs, assisting those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
What does a hearing dog do?
Hearing dogs are trained to alert their partners of common sounds necessary for everyday safety and independence. These include smoke detectors, the alarm clock, doorbell, telephone or a baby’s cry — many sounds that those with normal hearing take for granted. They also alert their owners of intruders or when someone is approaching from behind. A hearing dog nudges their partner to alert them and then leads them to the source of the sound.
What do hearing service dogs look like?
Hearing dogs are generally small to medium mixed breeds. They come from either shelters or professional breeders and are then custom-trained for four to six months by service dog organizations, such as Paws with a Cause. The dogs are dedicated to and work for their partners until their health no longer allows them to, after which they retire and enjoy a laid-back dog life.
While these dogs are adorable, remember that they’re doing an important job and shouldn’t be distracted. Unless their companion says otherwise, be respectful and resist the urge to pet the dog.
Meet Tahoe: MDHearing’s Own Hearing Dog
At MDHearing, we’re passionate about helping those with hearing loss because it’s personal to us. Two years ago, customer service specialist Jeff joined the MDHearing team and with him came Tahoe, his hearing dog. Some would call this four-legged friend the office mascot, some would call him the employee of the year. But to Jeff, he is much more than that.
Jeff was born with profound hearing loss, and without a hearing dog, he wouldn’t be able to function. He’s had three hearing dogs — the first in 1992 when he was expecting his first child. He needed to be able to solely care for the baby when his wife was working, and getting a service dog allowed him that agency.
Tahoe has been with Jeff for three years now. He is trained to wake Jeff every morning when the alarm goes off. Throughout the day, Tahoe alerts him of warnings, such as sirens in the car. “I used to be the last to know why everyone was pulling over,” Jeff said, “but now I’m the first.”
For anyone with a disability, a service dog provides the freedom to live independently and participate in everyday life. “It’s reassuring to have Tahoe. I don’t have to worry about break-ins or smoke detectors.”
If you or a loved one might benefit from a hearing dog, look for an organization in your community or talk to your audiologist. They can explain the qualifications and application process, and help match you with the perfect companion. The team at MDHearing knows from personal experience what a difference a service dog can make.
MDHearing is a Midwest company proud to offer affordable, effective hearing solutions to people throughout the US.