"Albert has made me visible"
Posted by Matt Sadler
Sarah was born profoundly deaf and often made to feel she was not important – almost invisible. As well as alerting her to important and life-saving sounds, hearing dog Albert has also broken down barriers and given her the confidence to live life how she wants to.
This is Sarah’s story:
I was born profoundly deaf and have no hearing in both ears.
It has impacted me massively. I’ve never felt safe wherever I was, even in my own home as I can't hear sounds. I’ve always felt very vulnerable. I can't hear sounds like the doorbell or someone knocking, meaning that I missed parcels and visitors. If I was expecting a parcel or a visitor, I had to wait by the window to look for them. I couldn’t do anything in case I missed them.
I slept through an alarm clock, even with a vibrate pad under my pillow. It was always hit or miss. This meant my mum or dad had to come in my bedroom to wake me up.
When I was in the shower or bath, and a sound goes off like a smoke alarm, they needed to open the door to get to the light switch to flash the light, to grab my attention. I very rarely had a bath because of that reason. In these situations, I don't have privacy. The smoke alarm is one of the most important sounds that worried me constantly, all the time.
I’ve struggled in my social life, even with my family. It is very difficult as I rely on British Sign Language (BSL), as it is my first language to communicate with others. People who don’t know BSL struggle to communicate with me. It makes the situation very awkward for me and them, and it’s very frustrating.
I’ve always dreaded going to any social occasion like a party or a meal. It is very isolating, and I could feel very lonely as I can't understand the conversation.
I've been scared to say anything in case I embarrass myself or get confused, especially if I can't keep up with the conversation. I get nervous with mixing with people that I don't know, as they don't understand how to communicate with me.
I never went out on my own, I always had to have someone with me.
People would think I was ignorant when they spoke to me, especially when I pay for my items in a shop, because they couldn’t tell I am deaf. I have even had people barge into the back of me, because I couldn’t hear them behind me.
A woman once pushed her pram into back of my legs and shouted at me in front of everyone. I was quite upset and embarrassed.
It was always very stressful, tiring, isolating and frustrating. I had to rely on my parents and others to let me know about sounds and to let me know what is happening that I needed to be aware of, whether it's daytime or night-time. It meant I had no independence at all.
I have felt ignored. I always felt so excluded when with people. I felt like I am not important, like I am invisible. People talk to my mum or dad, but not to me. Being deaf is so hard and exhausting.
This all changed when I was matched with my hearing dog by Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.
When Albert met me and my parents for the first time, he somehow knew that I am the one whose life he will change, as he came to me and has never left my side. He has changed me and my life. We’ve been inseparable since the day we met. I can't believe the difference he has made to my life.
I am more relaxed in my home with Albert, knowing that he'll alert me to sounds that I need to be aware of by nudging me with his nose. I'm able to sleep properly, knowing Albert will alert me to sounds by jumping on my bed, whether it's the alarm clock, doorbell, smoke alarm or any sound that he feels that I need to be aware of.
He has even woken me up at 2am, as he heard someone coming into the house. It was only my parents coming home from a work night out, but I feel so safe knowing he will let me know if there are any intruders at night. He lets me know if someone's calling me whether the room door is open or closed, especially my bedroom and bathroom too so nobody has to come in. I have my privacy back. I am able to have a bath often now, and a longer shower.
One morning, I was cooking my breakfast and I didn't realise it was burning until Albert nudged me and I asked him “what is it?”, then he laid down straight away. I then just remembered my breakfast! It was burnt and smoke was coming out of the grill. My life would be in danger if I didn't have Albert to let me know about smoke alarms I can't hear.
He follows me everywhere, so he can stay close to me. He has given me the confidence to go out, knowing I am not on my own, as I have him by my side. He made me visible, so people are more aware of my disability.
I used to be embarrassed and shy about being deaf, but I am not anymore. I feel very proud to take Albert everywhere. He is part of me, like my missing piece of jigsaw that has now completed me.
Being deaf, I constantly face barriers every single day, but now I don't have to face it alone. I have Albert by my side, and we face it together. My parents are more relaxed about me being on my own, that they even went away knowing that Albert will always keep me safe and will let me know about sounds.
He is very friendly and just loves saying hello to people when we are out and about. If he wants to say hello to someone, he will wag his tail and show his big puppy eyes. That make the person come over to say hello to him! He helps break the ice between me and people.
We do everything together, and we see every day as an adventure for us together. We always have lots of fun, no matter what we do. He is absolutely amazing, and I don't know what I would do without him. He’s my very best friend, and I love him to bits.
Albert has done so much more than what I expected from him as a hearing dog. He is not just my hearing dog, he is my best friend, my companion. He makes me laugh everyday with his very happy and cheeky personality. He makes me feel confident and he makes everyone aware of my deafness with his special uniform.
Albert just absolutely loves to work, and he has even taught himself some sounds that he hasn’t been trained in. For example, he will let me know if there is post, or plates rattling meaning it's my teatime, or people coming into the room.
One afternoon, he nudged me, looking worried, and I asked him “What is it?”. I then followed him outside, to find my dad being sick and needing help. He didn't ask him to fetch me. Albert worked that out.
Wherever we go, people stop us to tell me how gorgeous Albert is and often ask about what he does to help me. They don't realise how frightening it is not able to hear sounds, and how isolating is it.
I've noticed that people are kinder to me now and make me feel involved in society. Albert has made me visible. It's all thanks to him, he really is a superstar.
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