What do Dogs for the Hearing Impaired do?

Lily Ruha

Dogs for the hearing impaired alert a person who is hard-of-hearing or deaf to sounds that they cannot hear. Hearing these sounds is critical for daily functioning and for protection from danger in the home and outdoor environments. Dogs for the hearing impaired alert their owners through contact, such as a gentle nose nudge, and then they guide them to the cause of the sound. These dogs are usually trained at a young age and possess specific temperaments and characteristics.

Dogs for the hearing impaired are often mixed breeds taken from shelters.
Dogs for the hearing impaired are often mixed breeds taken from shelters.

Dogs for the hearing impaired, also referred to as hearing dogs, are trained to notice specific sounds and immediately alert their owners. A person who is deaf or hard-of-hearing cannot hear important sounds around the home. A knock on the door, a crying baby, an intruder, the telephone, the fire alarm and an alarm clock are examples of sounds to which a dog is trained to respond. Well-trained hearing dogs will alert their owners within seconds of hearing such sounds.

A hearing dog alerts its owner to specific sounds by making physical contact. At the sound of a crying baby, for example, the dog might jump on the bed of the sleeping owner and touch her to wake her. The dog would then lead the mother to the bed of the crying baby. Each hearing dog is trained to react to specific sounds relevant to the owner’s needs.

Dogs for the hearing impaired generally have distinct personalities and temperaments. They must be confident and energetic and respond immediately to sounds in the environment. Service dogs, in general, cannot be overly protective and need to interact with people in a friendly manner. They must demonstrate obedience skills, such as responding to voice requests and hand signals for staying, sitting and walking.

Hearing dogs are usually rescued from dog shelters. They come in various mixed breeds and sizes, though most hearing dogs tend to be smaller or medium-size. It is common for hearing dogs to be a combination of specific breeds such as poodles, Chihuahuas, Lhasa Apsos, and terrier mixes.

Dogs for the hearing impaired are generally adopted and trained at a young age. The ideal hearing dog has been trained before the age of two. Adoption and training at a young age also allow the dog to be of service for as long as possible. An older dog will have less time to be of service due to age and possible health issues.

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