Ground-breaking study shows hearing dogs significantly improve the lives of deaf people

Posted by Matt Sadler

A study by the University of York into the impacts hearing dogs have on the lives of deaf people has found they significantly improve wellbeing, mental health and independence, and reduce social isolation and fearfulness.

Hearing dog Kai in his burgundy jacket

The study is the first ever randomised controlled trial investigating the impact of hearing dogs on people’s lives. It evaluated hearing dog partnerships created and supported by our Charity. The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research’s School for Social Care Research.

More than 160 people with severe or profound hearing loss who had applied to the Charity for a hearing dog took part in the research.

Life improvements

The study showed that people who had received a hearing dog had significantly better mental well-being, were less dependent on others, and had fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression compared to those in the study still waiting for a hearing dog. They were also significantly less likely to feel isolated and fearful, either in the home or when out and about. In addition, those with a hearing dog had used fewer NHS and social care services. 

Professor Bryony Beresford, the study’s Chief Investigator at the University of York, said: “We know that hearing loss can negatively affect many aspects of people’s lives and, for people with severe hearing loss, hearing devices have limited impact. This means we need to know the best ways to support people as they live with hearing loss. This study provides, for the first time, robust evidence on the positive and wide-ranging impacts hearing dogs can make on people’s lives. 

“This was a ground-breaking study. No-one has previously used a randomised control trial to evaluate the impacts of hearing dogs on people’s lives, and within the world of assistance dogs more widely, trials are still incredibly rare. What this study has demonstrated is that this sort of research is possible. We would like to acknowledge the commitment of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People to ensuring the trial ran successfully.” 

Geraldine and hearing dog Bella

Strong evidence

Angie Platten, Director of Services at Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, said: “We see every day the difference hearing dogs make to deaf children and adults, but there was very little in the way of strong scientific research to evidence this before the University of York carried out their independent study.

“It has really shone a light on why our dogs are so important – they make life better for so many people who had previously struggled because of their deafness or hearing loss, particularly because many deaf people can feel very lonely and isolated. 

“This research is also really exciting as it could have wider implications in the way we measure the impacts of assistance dogs in the UK.” 

“He improved my mental wellbeing enormously”

Graham Sage, 31, from Oxfordshire, who has hearing dog Jovi, said: “Losing my hearing was scary. It made me feel unsafe, I couldn’t follow conversations easily and I became more introverted and felt quite isolated.

Graham and hearing dog Jovi

“My hearing dog Jovi has changed all that. He alerts me to sounds and he’s a huge part of my family. He’s made me feel more accepting, and even proud, of my hearing loss. He improved my mental wellbeing enormously and I can’t imagine my life without him. My wife Anna and I now have a little girl and it’s comforting to know Jovi can alert me to a baby’s cry and will add to the safety and security of our household.”  

The paper, "Hearing dogs for people with severe and profound hearing loss: a wait-list design randomised controlled trial investigating their effectiveness and cost-effectiveness." is published in the journal, Trials. 

For more information on the project visit https://www.york.ac.uk/spru/projects/pedro/

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blog hearing dogs

Hi everyone, I'm Matt and I look after the Charity's social media, blog and e-newsletter.

I spend a lot of my day talking about our hearing dog superstars - it's a hard life!

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