For People who are Deaf or have Hearing Loss
Hearing dogs are specially trained canine assistants who help people who are deaf or have hearing loss. Hearing dogs can alert their partners to sounds around the home such as a door knock, smoke detector, alarm clock, tea kettle or telephone ringing. In public, hearing dogs can be helpful in alerting their partner to a cell phone ringing, keys dropping or traffic approaching. Dogs can even be taught to recognize their handler’s name to alert the person when he or she is being spoken to.
While responding to these trained sounds is the primary role of a hearing dog, many people can also benefit from this type of dog's natural sound awareness. Hearing dogs are especially sensitive to noises and will notice sudden things that happen around them, even in public. A deaf partner can learn a lot about his or her environment just by watching his or her dog’s visual cues. For example, a dog may notice when someone approaches from behind and tries to get the attention of his or her handler. Many times people in public do not realize that a person is deaf, and mistake an individual’s lack of response for rudeness. The presence of a hearing dog, along with the notifying "hearing dog" patch on the dog’s vest, is often the first indicator to the public that the deaf individual may need to be spoken to face to face or in another manner.
Hearing dogs communicate with their deaf partners by making physical contact with them and then leading them to the location of the sound. Small dogs will jump up on a person's leg or lap to alert their partner, while large dogs will seek out a person's hand with their nose to make contact.
Nearly 100% of our hearing dogs are rescued from shelters or rescue groups and begin their assistance dog training with NEADS as young adults. Many of these dogs are mixed breeds from 10 to 60 lbs. Occasionally we may utilize a dog from our puppy program that is better suited to a career as a hearing dog. These dogs are typically small labradors. Hearing dogs come in all shapes and sizes.
This brief video demonstrates a few of the tasks our hearing dogs can perform: