Man’s Best Friend: How Dogs Can Help Veterans With Hearing Loss
It’s not surprising that dogs are America’s favorite pet. They not only provide wonderful companionship, but over 500,000 dogs across America support people with disabilities, including military veterans. Hearing loss is the most common service-related health issue for US veterans, about 2.7 million live with hearing loss or tinnitus. While any degree of hearing loss can be devastating, thanks to their canine companion, veterans with hearing loss are able to enjoy a happy and fulfilled life.
Hearing Loss In The Military
Hearing loss is generally part of the natural aging process and affects 3 in 10 people aged 60 and over. In the military, both hearing loss and tinnitus are most often due to exposure to loud and sudden noise such as gunfire, tanks, aircraft, roadside bombs, and heavy equipment. Normal age-related hearing loss can also make the issue worse. It can have a devastating and long-term impact on veterans' lives. Veterans with tinnitus may hear a constant ringing or buzzes that stops them from concentrating or sleeping properly. Hearing loss can make it difficult for a veteran to maintain relationships, reduce their independence and mobility, and potentially lead to social isolation and depression.
How Service Dogs Help Veterans
Service dogs for hearing provide much more than just wonderful companionship for veterans. The dogs are specially trained to alert their owners to potential hazards along with the usual sounds around the home such as the doorbell, alarm clock or smoke detector. The dog will either nudge or paw at their owner to get their attention and lead the person to the source of the sound. Outside of the home, service dogs such as hearing dogs are allowed by federal law to go anywhere the public is permitted to go. They act as their owner’s ears, helping to keep them safe and aware of what’s happening around them.
What Makes A Good Hearing Dog?
Hearing dogs for veterans receive professional training for their specific duties. However, there are of course natural traits that help to make a dog an ideal hearing dog. A hearing dog needs to be naturally attentive to sound and always alert and ready to work as soon as required. They also need to be friendly and people-orientated, while also calm in a crowd. It’s essential for any support dog to be able to remain focused its task and not easily distracted. Hearing dogs come in all varieties, but labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, poodles, and cocker spaniels are particularly well-suited to being a hearing dog.
Companions For Veterans
There are a number of programs across the US that provide service dogs to military veterans, including hearing dogs. While the dog is generally provided for free, there’s often a high demand so you may find you have to wait before you become eligible for your hearing dog. The hearing support dog program will then match you with a dog that has been highly trained to support veterans with hearing loss.
You can see why we are a nation of dog lovers when you take into account just what amazing and life-changing support and companionship these animals offer military veterans.