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Planning Retirement Online

Hearing dogs.

April 2011 

hearing dogsFor many reasons, blindness often attracts more sympathy than deafness. Yet anyone who has a hearing problem will tell you it can become an overwhelming handicap that has far reaching effect on all aspects of life.

Nearly nine million people in the UK are living with some deafness and over half a million people have severe or profound hearing loss. Living without sound is not only very isolating, restrictive and limiting, especially in today’s modern frenzied world where so much relies on fast communication, but it also can be highly dangerous.

Guide dogs for the blind have been around for a very long time and do the most outstanding work, but less well known are the hearing dogs that assist deaf people.

When you begin to consider just how important sound is in all aspects of our daily lives then it is easy to realise that a dog that can alert deaf people to everyday household sounds and danger signals could really change someone’s life.

hearing dogsIn the UK there is a major charity to help provide specially trained dogs for deaf people. Hearing Dogs for Deaf People was set up nearly 30 years ago and is now a well established charity which breeds and trains dogs. These dogs alert deaf people to important household sounds and danger signals such as alarm clocks, doorbells, telephones and smoke alarms.

They are so well trained that through different signals, such as touching with a paw, nudging with a nose, or responding in different ways to vocal questions, the dogs can communicate quite a lot of information about the sounds they are hearing. The dogs provide real friendship and support and can greatly increase the independence, confidence and security of deaf people. At the moment there are over 750 people relying on hearing dogs but sadly there are simply not enough of these very special dogs to meet demand.

This is where the charity comes in. They are breeding and training these wonderful hearing dogs and they need help not only in fund raising but in various support roles that can be ideal for older people.

Hearing Dogs has set up its own breeding scheme mainly with labradors, retrievers, spaniels, poodles and some smaller breeds such as cavaliers. The training starts from around eight weeks and this is one area where volunteers are needed to help socialise each dog before it goes on into serious training. The initial socialising period can last for just over a year and the temporary carers are required to teach their puppy basic obedience and social skills and to introduce them to different sights, sounds and environments which will form the basis of them becoming good hearing dogs. Equipment and food for the puppy is provided by the charity.

Once this initial period of socialisation is completed, the puppy then goes on into special training at one of the charity’s two special training centres. During this time a suitable recipient for the dog is identified and he or she will spend time with the dog working together to form a real partnership.

The charity provides the dogs free of charge and they are easily recognised by their distinctive burgundy jackets. A hearing dog is a registered Assistance Dog and as such is allowed access to public places.

It costs around £10,000 to support a hearing dog through its training and placement with a deaf person, and demand for these wonderful dogs is growing.
There are numerous ways one can support the charity; with fund raising of course, but also in a variety of very different volunteer roles, from dog walking and driving to local events co-ordinator and the early puppy socialising we mentioned earlier.


Demonstration hearing dog learning to alert his trainer to soundsThe best way to find out more about this charity is to visit

You can also call them on 01844 348 100, email on or write to them at:



Hearing Dogs for Deaf People
The Grange
Wycombe Road
Princes Risborough
Bucks, HP27 9NS


Photographs courtesy of Nick Ridley Photography


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