Thursday, 10 November 2011

Hearing dogs

I am sure that all of us have either heard of or encountered guide dogs for the blind. But guide dogs for the deaf? My experience, though vicarious, of a hearing dog some years ago was interesting. Someone I knew lived alone and wanted to keep a dog as a pet. After much persuasion, she settled for a hearing dog. Her experiences is somewhat similar to this lady in the link/article that I am about to share (except that her dog didn't go blind).

Here is the article:

We've all heard of Guide Dogs for the Blind - but did you know there are Hearing Dogs for the Deaf, too?

Mother-of-three Marjorie Houseman, 58, a JobCentre clerk from Forres, Scotland, has a golden retriever called Barnaby who acts as her ears.

By an extraordinary quirk of fate, Barnaby has gone blind - so Marjorie returns the favour by acting as his eyes. Here, she tells how us how Barnaby and Marjorie are the perfect match.

Barnaby and I didn't hit it off immediately; that's to say, I liked him, but he wasn't so sure about me. His attitude was 'I will work for you, but don't ask me to like you'.

He took a long time to settle in, but it was a wonderful day when he started to wag his tail and follow me.

I think he had been wary because he had been only six months old when he was rescued from a high-rise flat in Glasgow.

It's quite likely he had been illtreated as a puppy. He certainly showed signs of fear at certain things.

Hearing dogs can be anything from a poodle to a mongrel. The majority are taken from rescue kennels, though others are donated.

The next stage in our partnership was when I had to go down to one of Hearing Dogs for the Deaf's two training centres, at Cliffe, near Selby in Yorkshire, to meet him.

The training centre has a lovely flat for you to stay in so that the dog can be with you 24 hours a day throughout a week of intensive training.

I was taught about caring for him. Then we had to learn to work with phones and other household sounds together.

Barnaby is really good at his work. He is very intelligent. He takes the time to think things through, and he amazes me with the things he does - things that were not part of his training.

If there's milk on the cooker and I go to the living room and it boils over he will rush and tell me.

It was a shock to me to discover he was blind. He has cataracts on both eyes. At first I just thought his eyes were a bit glazed but I didn't really notice that he could not see.

Once I knew he was blind it was just a matter of making a few adjustments for him - trying not move the furniture about and not leaving my shoes where he can fall over them.

Despite not being able to see he can still find me at work or at home because he knows the places so well. He even seems to know the number of steps at work.

When we are out I now guide him. He just trusts me to know where we are going. There is a great, special bond between us now. I Mthink it is even more marked since he became blind.

After six years together I know he would never let me down and he knows that I would never let him down. He did have an eye operation, a new laser treatment, which has a 98 per cent success rate. Sadly, it failed.

My deafness is caused by otosclerosis, which is a problem of the middle ear which can be hereditary. I never really noticed that I couldn't hear very well, but I can remember the change from primary school to secondary school, was a nightmare.

Frequently I was told how I was so stupid, how I hadn't worked or listened. Then I went to train as a nurse and that went wrong for me as well. I still wasn't aware what my problem was: I just thought it was lack of confidence.

My deafness became really marked when my daughter was born 30 years ago. It was hard. I had three children under school age and I had a disability that made me panic at night because I wouldn't be able to hear the baby.

Then it was arranged that I should have a stapedectomy, the operation which can sometimes cure otosclerosis.

I had been on the waiting list for 18 months when we had to move overseas to Malta. My husband, from whom I am now divorced, was with the RAF. The operation was done there and the night I came home it was lovely. I could hear again.

Then, overnight, I could feel the hearing go again. I was just unlucky. The surgeon tried again a year later, but he told me that there was only a 50-50 chance and it didn't work at all.

I had a hearing aid fitted when I came back from Malta. It's the highest-powered NHS one, and I also have a special phone with an amplifier which goes over the hearing aid.

The hearing aid takes in all the background noise, so if I am watching television I won't pick up the sound of the alarm. And at night you have to take the hearing aid off to let air in to your ear so it doesn't become infected. That's when Barnaby is really vital.

Once you have relied on a hearing dog the feeling of emptiness when you have to do without one is horrendous.

On one or two occasions I've had to leave Barnaby at home in an emergency and I just can't function without him. It's like somebody has cut my arm off. I'm stressed that he's not with me. He did have one unfortunate little trait, but that was probably to do with him being a rescue dog. Now he never steals food in front of your face, he waits until your back is turned!

Very interesting!

No comments:

Post a Comment