“I lived in a world of silence where I never relaxed.”

Posted by Matt Sadler

Nicola has been affected since her early teens by hearing loss caused by otosclerosis, a condition that causes abnormal bone growth in the ear. She is now profoundly deaf in one ear and severely deaf in the other.

She was partnered with the adorable hearing dog Dolly in 2020. This is their story:

“I had a stapedectomy in my 20’s, which doctors claimed was successful, but it didn’t restore my hearing.

“I always wore my hair so it covered my ears and no one could see my hearing aids, and I became very skilled at diverting the conversation if I hadn’t heard what was said. By the time I reached my 40’s though, my hearing had deteriorated so much that I couldn’t cover it up anymore and I began to lose confidence.

“The biggest impact was on my social life. I found it difficult to socialise because I couldn’t catch what was being said, and that made me anxious. In the end, I pretty much stopped going out at all.

“Even at home, I lived in a world of silence where I never relaxed. I was constantly listening out for the doorbell or the telephone, I rarely listened to music or had the TV on because it would block out the sounds I needed to hear, and when I put something in the oven, I would stay in the kitchen in case I missed the timer.”

When Nicola started her current job six years ago, she made a conscious decision that she would be more open about her hearing.

“I can honestly say it was the best thing I ever did. It felt as though a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I just wish someone had sat me down 30 years ago and told me the impact of being honest about my deafness.”

Growing up in Buckinghamshire, Nicola had always been aware of Hearing Dogs and was used to seeing people out and about with their dogs wearing Hearing Dogs jackets, and that’s what gave her the idea to apply.

Hearing dog Dolly in her burgundy jacket

“It was fantastic to be accepted onto the waiting list and when I visited The Grange, I really felt I was at the beginning of a journey. It was very exciting!

“When I got ‘the’ email to say the Charity found a dog they thought would be a good match for me, we were all set to go – and then the pandemic happened!”

It was a few months before the government relaxed restrictions enough to allow us to place dogs again and Dolly was able to come and live with Nicola and her family.

“We all loved her on sight – she was so affectionate and eager to please. I think the matching process must be second to none because they got it exactly right with Dolly and me.

“The difference she’s made to my life is incredible. I’m so much more relaxed now when I’m at home. Being able to switch off and not worry about whether there is anyone at the front door is priceless.

Nicola asking Dolly 'What is it?' as she alerts to a sound

Nicola asking Dolly 'what is it?' as Dolly alerts to a sound

“Dolly has also made a big difference to me when I go shopping. I never liked going into shops on my own because I couldn’t hear what was being said when I paid for things or asked for help. Now, as well as having Dolly, I also wear a lanyard which says I have hearing loss. I’m not hiding my hearing loss anymore – I’m advertising it!

“As someone who struggles socially, Dolly’s a real icebreaker for me. When we’re out together, I’m so proud of her and she loves the attention!

“One of the things that struck us as soon as we got Dolly was that she’d come to us as a loved dog. She was obviously well-trained, but most of all she’d been loved and she was loving, and that’s down to the volunteers she lived with.

“There have been so many people involved in her journey, particularly her volunteers, but also her trainer who was at my side every step of the way and was very special to me and Dolly. I’d like to say a huge thank you to them all.”

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About the author

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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