"Gryffin sees everything as an adventure"

Posted by Matt Sadler

Nine years ago, Ann experienced a coma triggered by an auto-immune response to a virus. When she regained consciousness, she was profoundly deaf.

For Ann, coming to terms with her deafness took time and during that time her third son tragically died. Then, hearing dog Gryffin arrived and his zest for life has given Ann new hope for a life with hearing loss.

“My first memories after waking up from the coma were of seeing people’s lips move, but hearing nothing,” explains Ann. “It was a frightening time for me and my family.

“In addition to my hearing loss, I have hyperacusis, which means sounds quickly become painful. Because hearing aids work by amplifying sound, they are not helpful for me. I rely on lipreading and auto-captions. For work, I use speech-to-text reporters who type verbatim what people say. Without them, work would not be possible.

“Adapting to living with hearing loss wasn’t easy. Going out in a group isn’t possible anymore as I can only follow conversations on a one-to-one basis, and even then only if I can lipread the person speaking to me.

“I have always been passionate about music and ballet. I have learnt to accept that I will never hear a new piece of music for the rest of my life and instead focus on other activities I enjoy, especially going out with Gryffin.

“Most of all, I missed my daily phone calls with my mum in Lancashire, but we found other ways to keep in touch with regular visits to each other’s homes, until she died.

“Communicating with friends and family, I use texts and emails, but it is not as spontaneous as picking up the phone and having a chat. My judicial colleagues are very accommodating and always make sure I have the adjustments in place that I need; Gryffin is always very popular at training sessions.

“Three years after I lost my hearing, my third son Marcus died in a car accident. Trying to deal with the police, the undertaker and coroner while not being able to hear what they were saying made an already difficult situation almost impossible. It was a very sad time for my family and I.

“I applied for a hearing dog towards the end of 2015. My family encouraged me to apply as although I had adjusted to living with hearing loss, they were very concerned that I couldn’t hear sounds at home and out of the house. They thought having the safety and security of a hearing dog could help me, especially when travelling on my own.

“Since Gryffin has joined the family, he has helped me in so many ways. He alerts me to sounds; for instance, wherever I am at home he’s insistent that I respond to the doorbell. He helps me to feel more comfortable explaining about my hearing difficulties to other people. His presence reminds people that my hearing loss is significant and helps them understand my difficulties with verbal communication.

Ann is sitting on a chair in front of a laptop and she has turned round to face golden cocker spaniel Gryffin, who is to the right of the photo

“Gryffin is a very positive but undemanding communication partner. I chat away to him throughout the day and he happily wags his tail in response. Taking Gryffin for a walk gives me a break from concentrating on lipreading or reading speech to text - both are tiring and require concentration. It also helps if I am struggling with tinnitus or hyperacusis.

“Gryffin has an incredible zest for life. He sees everything as an adventure, and this filters through to my family and I. He takes everything in his stride and thrives on new experiences. These have included going on a plane, visiting 10 Downing Street and Gryffin being blessed at St Paul’s Cathedral; the latter two were arranged by my son Oliver.

“Gryffin enjoys football matches with my eldest son Max. He loves waking up my youngest son Magnus by jumping onto his bed. Gryffin also enjoyed lots of attention at Magnus’ graduation ceremony. Gryffin loves trips to the beach in Lancashire, where I grew up, and visits to the Lake District for long walks.

“Gryffin is very patient when I am working, sitting calmly next to me. However, he is happiest when we are out and about enjoying our life together or when he is helping me. Everywhere we go, people comment on Gryffin’s friendly and sociable personality. He thrives on social interaction and is always a willing and enthusiastic participant.

“We have given talks to several local charities about Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and managing hearing loss. Last year, we raised nearly £4,000 walking in memory of Marcus. This year, Gryffin and I raised more funds in memory of Marcus by completing the Hearing Dogs walk across Morecambe Bay.

Golden cocker spaniel Gryffin is in the garden and his head is poking over a wooden fence

“Everything about Gryffin is special. He brings so much happiness and pleasure to everyone he meets with his unlimited energy, loving, friendly ways and zest for life. I am very grateful to his trainer and volunteers for helping Gryffin to learn the skills he now uses to support me.

“The bond Gryffin and I have is truly special. I look at Gryffin and know Marcus would have loved him too. I cannot imagine life without Gryffin!”

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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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