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Hearing Dogs for Deaf Children

Published: 7th June 2009 13:18

  Evie and Gem

Hearing Dogs for the Deaf - Freedom to be Me

The Hearing Dogs charity has been training dogs for deaf adults since 1982 and is now extending its work to assist deaf children aged six to 11 years as part of a two-year pilot project, partly funded by the BBC Children in Need Appeal.
Assistance dogs are making huge differences to their charges.  Jason, aged 10,  is one of the first deaf children to benefit from his experience of living with Violet his Hearing Dog. In Jason's own words "I love Violet.  Before I was alone by myself, no-one to play with, nothing to do.  I felt sad.  Now I'm happy.  Now I play with Violet." The dogs play a significant part in raising the child's self-esteem and allow them to interact socially.
Seven-year-old Evie Crook is the youngest recipient to date of a hearing dog specially trained to help a deaf child.  Evie is severely deaf, and has had Gem for a few months.  She lives with her older sister, Maddy, who is hearing, and her parents Dave and Becky who are also both hearing.  Becky first heard about Hearing Dogs a few years ago, and enquired then about the possibility of having a dog trained for Evie, but at that stage the Charity was only training dogs for deaf adults.  However, in 2007 when the pilot project was set up to place hearing dogs with deaf children, Becky was contacted and Evie was lucky enough to be one of the 12 children involved in the study.
Becky has always wanted to be independent and became incredibly frustrated,  but is now so much calmer and happier.
They are very excited by the results of this pilot project and the effects that these dogs have on the psychological wellbeing and development of deaf children in hearing families. 
They are particularly interested in the influence of a dog on factors such as social interaction, confidence, self-esteem and the development of relationships with peers and adults. They are also be examining the relationship the child develops with the dog itself.

Facts about childhood deafness

  • There are around 35,000 deaf children in the UK.
  • 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents who have little or no experience of deafness.
  • The UK-wide introduction of the Newborn Hearing Screening programme (NSHP) in 2006 has reduced the average age of identification of a child's deafness to around eight weeks old.
  • Ear problems account for a third of visits to the family doctor in a child'sfirst 18 months of life.
  • Almost every day, two babies are born with a clinically significant hearing loss.
  • 840 babies are born every year with impaired hearing in both ears.
  • Over 50% of cases of born-deaf children are due to genetic causes.
  • 80% of all pre-school children suffer from glue ear at some time.
  • Glue ear is the most common reason for pre-school children to visit the family doctor.
  • Around half of all cases of glue ear will persist for over three months.
For information, please visit their website: Hearing Dogs for Deaf People website
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