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Hearing Dogs:

Also see:  Animal Signing: Canine Sign Language

Also see:  Hearing Ear Dogs


By Montana Hodges

Hearing Dogs: Unleashing Friends and Helpers

It isn’t clear who was the first person to train a “Hearing Dog.” The idea is that a dog is trained to recognize certain sounds and alert their owner who may be deaf or hard of hearing. Wherever and whenever the first few dogs were trained, the idea of a “hearing” companion caught on and spread across the world quickly. Some of the more prominent organizations such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and the International Hearing Dog Organization (IHDI, which was originally a kennel) began official training programs in the late 1970’s ( Both programs were inspired by deaf and hard of hearing individuals who requested a trained hearing dog.

The “Hearing Dog concept” ( is designed to create an assistance program for hearing impaired individuals. Generally the dogs are trained to recognize and react to certain sounds. Most commonly they are trained to respond to seven basic noises; fire/smoke alarm, telephone, door knock, doorbell, oven timer, alarm clock, name call, and, in select situations they can also be trained to respond to a babies cry. Depending on where the dog is trained or if their new owner continues their training, they can be trained to recognize up to 100 signs, so communication with their owners never seems to be a problem (Ogden, Paul, 1992). Hearing dogs are not necessary, but often add a convenience to a deaf household. One example is a response to smoke detector, although detectors cane be purchased that are designed with strobe lights, this may only apply to the room the detector is in. Jamie Berke of, also points out that “Flashing lights don’t discourage criminals from stealing from homes either,” whereas a barking dog may deter criminals (Berke, Jamie 2005).

Hearing dogs are also protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). This Act ensures that a hearing dog is allowed all the access in public places as other service dogs. These animals must be professionally trained, approved and registered as service animals. To qualify for a hearing dog that would receive service dog status by the ADA a person must be at least 18 years old, have at least a 65 decibel hearing loss (unaided) and live alone or with other people who are deaf or hard of hearing (up to one hearing person in the home may still be considered), the person must not have another dog in the house, and be physically willing and capable to care for the dog (

  Hearing Dogs come in many shapes and sizes. Usually they are matched on a personal basis by trainers and staff of each organization to meet an applicant’s specific needs. It is unclear how many hearing dogs have been placed since the late 1970’s. Dogs for the Deaf Incorporated has placed 2,500 rescued shelter dogs, the SPCA estimated that they have placed over 600 dogs; IHDI has placed more than 950 dogs. All of these organizations selected unwanted animals from local shelters, creating a unique relationship of a dog to provide a service to an owner that provides a home for an unwanted pet. 

Berke, Jamie, 2005, “Hearing Dogs for the Deaf- Can be a deaf persons best friend,”

Ogden, Paul, 1992, Chelsea: the Story of a Signal Dog, Brown, Little. Chicago, Illinois. 184 pp.

No specified author, 2005, International Hearing Dog, Inc., “General Information,”

No specified author, 2005, Dogs for the Deaf, Inc. “Rescuing Unwanted Dogs,”

No specified author, 2005. San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, “In a silent world, a Hearing Dog can make a big difference,”

Also see: "Canine Sign Language"


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