Can You Get a Service Dog for Hearing Loss
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), about 2 percent of Americans ages 45-54 have some hearing loss that accounts for a disability. Hearing loss can impair a person’s quality of life in many ways, affecting their self-esteem, work or school performance, mental health, and relationships. What’s more, hearing loss can impact a person’s safety, putting them at risk in everyday situations like crossing the street or walking through a crowd. Fortunately, a service dog can help individuals with hearing loss navigate these situations safely and improve their quality of life.
What Is a Hearing Dog?
Service dogs help people in all sorts of ways, like detecting low blood sugar in individuals with diabetes or preventing people with mobility issues from falling. Service dogs for hearing loss assist the deaf or hearing-impaired. Because service dogs are protected under federal law, a hearing dog can accompany their handler anywhere the public is allowed — even in areas where pets are not typically permitted.
Hearing dogs receive training to help their handler with various tasks, such as alerting their handler of doorbells, smoke alarms, crying babies, and approaching vehicles. Because of their skills, a service dog can be a life-changing investment for someone with a hearing impairment, providing both companionship and assistance with daily life.
Who Can Qualify for a Hearing Dog?
To qualify for a hearing service dog, several specifications must be met. The handler of the hearing dog must be:
- Over the age of 18.
- Live alone or with other people who have a hearing impairment.
- Have at least 65 decibels of unaided hearing loss.
- Be able to care for a service dog both fiscally and physically.
Additional requirements may apply, depending on where the service dog comes from. For example, International Hearing Dog, Inc. (IHDI), the first federally recognized organization to train hearing dogs, does not place their service dogs in homes where other dogs reside because other dogs may interfere with bonding. IHDI also believes other dogs may distract a hearing dog and prevent them from doing their work successfully.
Where Can I Take a Hearing Service Dog?
Service dogs, in general, can accompany their handler anywhere the public is allowed. Even when pets aren’t allowed, a service dog may enter the area. However, many hearing dogs only assist their handler within the home. Other hearing dogs may help their owner both inside the home and out in public.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the right of a service dog handler to have their dog with them in public areas. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) ensures that service dogs live with their owner, including “no pets allowed” areas.
When flying with hearing dogs, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) makes traveling possible. Some states also have their own laws applicable to service dogs in general and hearing dogs in particular. Therefore it’s always best to research state law before purchasing or traveling with a hearing dog.
Hearing dogs who work outside the home must have public access skills. These skills ensure that a dog is safe enough to bring out into the community. Unlike most dogs, service dogs remain with their handlers in “no pets allowed” areas; therefore, they must be obedient at all times, even when faced with a large, noisy crowd or other animals.
How to Find the Right Hearing Dog
The right hearing dog very much depends on the individual’s needs and preferences they’re working for. There’s no definite breed or size that a hearing service dog must be. Existing programs, like IHDI, N.E.A.D.S., and Canine Companions, have trained dogs for purchase that are matched to the right handler. Some programs may also have additional qualifications and benefits. Canine Companions, for example, asks that their applicants attend a two-week course and participate in ongoing support programs.
For the most part, service dog programs work diligently to ensure that their dogs are placed into the right homes. Prospective service dog owners should have the financial ability to care for a hearing dog, and the home environment should be safe for a dog. Individuals who live in smaller homes or apartments may want a medium or small hearing dog.
For people who feel that a hearing dog might benefit their situation, a consult with a physician is an excellent start. A physician can evaluate how a hearing dog may assist and what needs may be met. When searching for a trained hearing dog, the physician’s assessment can serve as a guide for which dogs are more suited to the individual’s needs.