Most animals have five basic senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. Some animals have keener senses in some areas than others. Dogs are known for their powerful sense of hearing which is capable of hearing sounds that are outside of the range of noises that humans can hear. Over the years, humans have learned to take advantage of the powerful hearing that dogs have in uses such as aids for hunting.
More recently, we have begun using these wonderful animals for even more interesting purposes such as aiding people whose senses aren’t as powerful as they should be or even not present at all. One of the common uses of dogs for helping people with disabilities is the use of a guide dog for people who have a hearing deficiency. Everyone has heard of seeing-eye dogs, but there are also dogs that are used to help people who are deaf.
Basic Information About Deafness
Hearing loss is the reduced ability to hear sounds relative to how most healthy humans can hear. Deafness is an extension of hearing loss where the loss of that sense has reached a point where the person can no longer understand speech even with the aid of sound amplification devices such as hearing aids. While just about everyone loses their ability to hear well over time, some people have accelerated hearing loss due to health issues, trauma, or genetics.
Beyond that, there are also people who are born completely or nearly completely deaf and are incapable of hearing any sound. 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 have at least partial hearing loss. 2 in 3 people over the age of 75 have hearing loss. About 2-3 in 1000 children are born with some form of hearing loss. Recent studies indicate that the rate of hearing loss in the world’s population is on the rise.
Deafness can occur if the inner ear gets damaged or as the result of brain damage or even just the natural aging process. Regardless of the cause, deafness can be a debilitating disability that drastically impacts the overall quality of life of the person suffering from it.
Whether you or someone you know has partial or total hearing loss, you are aware of how much a person’s daily life can be impacted by poor hearing. Some everyday activities for healthy individuals can be dangerous or even life-threatening for those who do not have the faculty of hearing. For instance, a deaf person crossing the street may not hear an ambulance coming down the road or the sound of a car running the light and could be struck in the street because of this. There are also concerns of a deaf person not waking up when a fire alarm is going off or in other emergency situations.
Due to this, many deaf people employ the use of service dogs to help them live a normal and safe life like any other person.
What is a Service Dog?
Service dogs are animals that have been specially trained to aid their owners in everyday life through the performance of various tasks that would be difficult or impossible for the owner to do on their own. Service dogs are used to help people with all kinds of disabilities such as service dogs that help pull wheelchairs or alert their owners and help them when they are about to have a seizure. The uses for service dogs continues to grow as people learn new ways to utilize them and train them for specialized tasks.
Service dogs are trained not just to perform their duties, but also to adapt well to all kinds of environments. The life of a service dog is very different from a typical pet because they are expected to accompany their owner wherever they go—even into places that would otherwise not allow animals to enter. This means that a service dog must be very well trained to act appropriately in social environments. They must also be able to deal well with stressful situations such as busy streets or crowded restaurants.
It is essential that a service dog remain calm at all times regardless of what is happening around them. If they can not do this then they will not be able to effectively perform their duties and keep their owner safe in their time of need. Service dogs are used to keep their owners safe and comfortable at all times while they provide the owner with confidence and independence through the performance of their trained duties.
Qualifying for a service dog is not guaranteed for all people with hearing loss or other conditions. Service dogs are typically only prescribed to people whose disabilities are severe enough to necessitate the use of a service animal in order to lead a normal life. The training that goes into creating an effective service dog is intensive and expensive, so service dogs are somewhat of a rare commodity. In order to qualify for a service dog, a person must get the permission of their physician in the form of a written prescription for a service dog.
Service dogs are incredible animals capable of performing various tasks to aid their owners. Service dogs are also allowed to accompany their owners to places where other animals would be prohibited. Due to this, they are highly sought after but must also are only approved when the need is dire. In cases of deafness, service dogs can be incredibly helpful in providing their owners with a sense of security and confidence that will allow them to lead normal, independent lives without fear of coming to harm due to their disability.
How Can a Service Dog Help the Deaf?
As was mentioned above, dogs have an incredible sense of hearing. They can use this keen sense of hearing to listen out for things that a human with a reduced ability to hear would not be able to hear. More than their ability to hear well, dogs are also invaluable as service animals thanks to their intelligence and highly trainable nature. Service dogs for the deaf are trained to react to different situations in very specific ways so that their owner can understand what’s going on around them even if they can’t hear it themselves.
For instance, a service dog trained to help someone who is deaf may be taught to jump into the bed of their owner and wake them up if a fire alarm or smoke detector starts going off in the house. Service dogs can also be trained to alert their owners when a phone is ringing or their alarm clock is going off. They can also be taught to stop their owners from walking into a street when a car is coming by that the owner can’t hear. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the things which service dogs are capable of doing for their deaf masters. Suffice it to say that service dogs can drastically improve the quality of life of their owners while also providing them a safer environment throughout their daily lives.
What Breeds are Best as Service Dogs for Deaf People?
Hearing dogs (service dogs trained for helping deaf people) need to have several characteristics and personality traits to best perform their duties. The primary traits sought after for a service dog for the deaf are numerous. Hearing dogs should be naturally attentive to noises in their environment and respond calmly to strange sounds. They must also be alert and energetic with a willingness to work. Their social abilities and friendliness are incredibly important due to the situations in which they will find themselves with regularity. Service dogs must also be focused and confident but not to the point of dominance.
Many hearing dogs are small to medium mixed breeds. Some of the more common breeds used as service dogs for the deaf are Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, and Terriers. Terrier mixes are very common due to their alert and active nature and friendly temperament. All service dogs need to be highly trainable and intelligent to adapt to different situations while always performing their essential duties without fail. The amount of training necessary to create an effective service dog is immense. Due to this, they can be quite expensive to purchase.
How Much is a Service Dog for the Deaf?
All pets cost their owners at least some amount of money even if just for their daily needs such as food and waste disposal. Service dogs are particularly expensive because they have all the needs of a typical animal (like vet visits, health checkups, and vaccinations) while also coming from long lines of healthy and intelligent animals in addition to the complex training they require.
A service dog that has finished all the necessary training it needs to do its job can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $70,000. The training itself is typically the bulk of the cost, but purebred animals with a long history of healthy parentage can cost a fair amount even before they are trained. These costs are significant and can be a large deterrent to someone obtaining a service dog; however, there are some avenues available to those who are seeking financial help in purchasing a service animal.
Grants are often sought for aiding in the purchase of a service animal, but the waitlists for these grants can be quite long due to the number of people looking to get help in this way. Personal loans are another option for financing the purchase of a service dog but a lot of research should be conducted before accepting any loan to make sure the terms of the loan are agreeable. Another option that many attempts to use is crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is done on sites like GoFundMe where people can make requests to the general public to make small donations for their cause.
Service Dog Training
Training a service dog is a complicated process that can take about 2 years from start to finish. This amount of training is necessary because of the specific nature of the training required for a service dog to perform its duties. In addition to the specific training needed for whatever intended purpose the service dog has, a service dog must also be thoroughly trained to remain calm at all times. Service dogs are expected to compose themselves and perform their duties even under very stressful circumstances such as being surrounded by people or other animals or in the middle of a busy restaurant.
Socialization of service dogs is of the utmost importance for them to do their job no matter where they are or what’s going on around them. They need to do well when around other people or animals and are basically trained to ignore everything except for their owner and anything that could bring harm to them. Aside from the animal needed to be trained, owners must also be trained in the proper handling of their service dog.
Training that service dogs undergo should also include the person who will own the dog in order to make sure they understand the commands the dog should be given as well as the signals that the animal will give off in different situations. Without properly understanding what the service dog is trying to indicate, the person will not be able to make proper use of their service dog.
How Does a Deaf Person Get a Service Dog?
The first step to getting any service dog is getting the permission of your physician. A doctor can prescribe a service dog to patients who have disabilities that are considered to be severe enough that they would have difficulty leading a normal life on their own. Once you have received the permission of your doctor, you can begin the process of finding a service dog that will best meet your needs. The experts at USSA can help guide you through the entire process of finding the right dog and getting the official documentation to make using your service dog much easier.
Check out the resources available on the USSA website to learn more about service animals and emotional support animals to find the right option for your needs. Contact us today with any questions you might have about service dogs or to get started registering your service animal.