Breaking the silence

Work of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People

source: Justine Hankins
Guardian Weekend May 24 2003 p63

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People is a charity which provides some 125 dogs annually to people with serious hearing problems. The dogs have been taught to respond to doorbells, fire alarms, and other everyday sounds. The dogs help by making life safer for deaf people, and they can also break through the isolation that many deaf people feel.

The dogs themselves often come from rescue organizations, and their size and breed are unimportant. The dogs are taught to take their owners to where sounds are coming from, using rewards. The dogs are also taught an 'alert signal', a particular way of lying, for when they hear an emergency sound.

Assistance Dogs UK has five members, including Hearing Dogs, guide dogs for blind people, Support Dogs, and Dogs for the Disabled. Dogs should be allowed access to locations where dogs are generally banned, if they are registered as assistance dogs. This does not always occur, and education is seen as the best way to improve access for assistance dogs. The Disability Discrimination Act can be used to prosecute services and businesses that deny access.

Deaf people aged over 18-years-old are eligible for hearing dogs, and they are good companions as well as working dogs.