"Having a hearing dog means everything to me"

Posted by Matt Sadler

For 28 years Janice has valued the support of having a hearing dog. Now, having just received her fourth dog, Janice reflects on the huge difference they have made to her life.

Janice with new hearing dog Humphrey (left) and retired hearing dog Marti (right)

Janice with new hearing dog Humphrey (left) and retired hearing dog Marti

Janice lost almost all her hearing overnight when seven months pregnant with her second child Sarah in November 1983.

By the time Sarah was born in January of the following year, my hearing loss had caused a lot of problems emotionally (from the grief and shock of my hearing being gone for good) and practically, with being a mum to a son of six years, Martin, and a new baby, and with my family only knowing me as a hearing person.

“I felt very isolated. It affected my daily life greatly. For instance I would have to carry my baby daughter’s carrycot everywhere so I could see if she cried as I couldn’t hear her.

“Night-time was particularly frightening and extremely hard as worried I would not wake up to her crying.

“Then I was partnered with my first hearing dog, Dolly. She transformed life for me. She gave me back my confidence. Dolly was by my side for nine years, alerting me to sounds and giving me so much love and companionship. When I lost her, I felt heartbroken and lost.

“When I got my next hearing dog, Josie, she was very different to Dolly but equally wonderful. Unfortunately, I only had her for seven years when she passed away after not fully recovering from a complicated hip operation. I was devastated. My confidence plummeted again.

“The time in between hearing dogs is very traumatic. These amazing dogs build up your character just being by your side 24/7, making you feel safe by alerting you to important sounds and providing company and love. I didn’t feel whole without my hearing dogs. I was living alone when Josie died and felt very isolated again.

Janice out and about with Marti (left) and Humphrey

“I waited two years for Marti, but he was definitely worth the wait. When he came to me he changed my life overnight. He has been an exceptional dog. He not only rescued me from loneliness, Marti quite literally saved my life when a fire ripped through my kitchen, setting off the fire alarm. Without Marti I would never have gotten out in time. He’s my hero.

“Last year, when Marti retired, I felt a deep sadness come over me. For 12 years he had been such an exceptional hearing dog. When he was no longer able to work or come out and about with me everywhere, it was like going back to before I had Dolly, back to the hardness of living life with hearing loss.

“But it was even more difficult, as people were having to wear masks because of the pandemic, so I could no longer read their lips when they spoke to me. The good thing is my amazing Marti was still with me at home. Comforting me and showing me lots of love. I love him dearly, I always will.”

Just a few weeks ago, Jan was partnered with her fourth hearing dog, Humphrey.

She says: “When I saw Humphrey for the first time I was overcome with tears of pure joy and relief. I’d lost all my confidence going out and not having Marti by my side and suddenly I felt all that anxiety drain away. Humphrey is a real sweetheart. He has restored my confidence in public places and, like Marti, his soundwork is exceptional. I’m over the moon.

“Having Humphrey is a godsend. Humphrey and Marti sit like bookends either side of me and have become best buddies – even the cats are warming to their new housemate!

“I am so grateful to all the kind people who support and volunteer for Hearing Dogs. You have made a difference to my life in huge ways. Each of my hearing dogs has opened doors for me as a person to grow in confidence, to feel able to tackle things better in daily life. Their companionship, their love and devotion is truly wonderful. They are just so important to my interaction with other people.

“Deafness is no longer invisible when you have your hearing dog beside you. With their uniform on they communicate my hearing loss in such a positive way and that breaks down so many barriers. People are more interested and more considerate towards me. It’s quite an emotional thing for me to put into words just how much this means.

“My hearing dogs have been so important to me over the past three decades. Not only for alerting me to the vital sounds that I don’t hear, but for their companionship and the unconditional love that they give. They never get impatient with you because you can’t hear or make you feel embarrassed or a nuisance. Having a hearing dog just means everything to me.”

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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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