Language & Communication11th October 2013
Hearing Dogs for the Deaf
Hearing Dogs for the Deaf, enjoying working with Pam St Clement as part of the 'Deaf for the Day' campaign.
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, the charity that provides life changing services to the lives of deaf people, launched a nationwide campaign from June – ‘Deaf for the Day’. Fronting the campaign was ex-Eastenders actress Pam St Clement. With hearing loss on the rise and one in six people in the UK suffering from some form of deafness, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People hope the campaign will highlight the wide range of issues often involved with hearing loss.
Pam spent a morning wearing a specially simulated hearing device provided by Specsavers Hearing Centres, that allowed her to experience being deaf and gain some first-hand understanding of the feelings of loneliness, isolation and the inability to interact socially, that often occurs through deafness. In the afternoon, Pam was partnered with Steven Taylor, and his hearing dog Echo, to appreciate the difference a hearing dog can make in a deaf person’s life; not only through the day-to-day assistance of alerting Steven to sounds, but also bringing visibility to his disability and providing life time companionship.
Pam wanted to learn and appreciate what it would be like to have to cope with the difficulties of day-to-day living when suffering from deafness. She described everyday activities such as walking along the street as making her feel “isolated” and as if she was “in a bubble”. Conversations with other people in public places were just as daunting for Pam, “That actually was very difficult because suddenly I was thrown into a situation where I was relating to more than one person”, she explained, “that sort of concentration is very exhausting.”
Not only did the experience make deafness, and the everyday difficulties it brings, a reality for Pam for one day, but she witnessed how valuable a hearing dog is to someone like Steven, “…I realised just how many challenges deaf people face, but I can also see the comfort and support that Steven gets from his hearing dog Echo.”
Since its launch at the world famous dog show Crufts in 1982, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People has created over 1,600 life-changing partnerships between deaf people and hearing dogs in the UK, with currently over 750 working partnerships. The dogs are trained to alert deaf people to sounds and danger signals, things that are taken for granted by a hearing person, such as the alarm clock, doorbell, telephone and the smoke alarm. This not only provides independence and confidence for deaf people, but also companionship.
David Greed is a recipient who also fully values how a hearing dog can change lives. He is married to Pippa, and has two children, Jemima (10) and Isaac (11). David has had hearing loss since birth and been a hearing dog recipient for 14 years. His first dog was Danny who he was partnered with in 1989. Ollie followed in 2002 and Sunny recently joined the Greed family.
Sunny has been a great help to David and his family, but it hasn’t always been easy. There was a period between Ollie and Sunny and the family had to cope without the help of hearing dog.
When asked how this time affected him and the children, David replied, "It was difficult – I lost my confidence and security. To be honest, the children are more resilient than me but there were occasions where they missed having a dog around. They were aware of me waiting anxiously for the next dog."
However, good things came when the wait was over and we asked David what is the biggest difference Sunny has made family life. He replied, "He fills the house with his cheeky persona and brings calm when the children become upset. As a family we enjoy working with Sunny and teaching him doggy tricks."
Hearing dogs are trained to alert deaf people to a range of sounds at home and in public. But they also go above and beyond their training and bring huge comfort to their recipients and their surrounding loved ones. David explains what could have been a dangerous situation where Ollie helped massively.
"When the children were younger, Jemima was in her buggy and Isaac was a toddler. Whilst we were out, Isaac decided to do a runner. I had to briefly leave Ollie next to Jemima in her buggy while I ran to retrieve Isaac. Ollie sat patiently looking after the buggy for us to return." It is clear that all three of David's hearing dogs have had a massively positive impact on family life.
If you want to get involved with the charity, then why not volunteer? In order to continue funding more life-changing partnerships, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People need fundraising volunteers, whose support and dedication has been the key to the charity’s success so far. You can become a fundraiser in a range of different areas, from starting your own informal fundraising group, to holding your own events and activities, to joining an existing branch in your area.
If you’d like to be a volunteer, please contact our Volunteering Department on 01844 348100 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org You can also find out more about Hearing Dogs for the Deaf on our website at www.hearingdogs.org.uk
Article by Sarah Lawrence
posted in Community / Language & Communication
11th October 2013