“Mene helps me be a better mum”
Not one to let her hearing loss stop her, Amy Collins has led a full and independent life of work and travel. Only when she had her first child did she feel vulnerable, but hearing dog Mene has changed that…
Ask most mums, and they’ll tell you the hardest thing they’ve ever done is… well, being a mum. Babies are cute and kids are fun, but take your eye off them for a second and there’s no knowing what they’ll get up to. If you can’t hear what they’re getting up to either, the greater the challenge.
This is why Amy Collins, deaf from birth and a senior nurse at a children’s hospital, realised she needed a hearing dog.
Amy explains: “Once I had children, I felt very vulnerable, especially as I now had little ones depending on me…”
Let’s rewind a few years. Amy was born with hearing loss, discovered at a routine hearing test with the health visitor when she was nine months old. At age five, it was realised that, while her nerves could process signals, sounds couldn’t pass into her inner ear.
However, Amy didn’t let this stop her.
Relishing the challenge
Amy takes up the story: “I went to a primary school with a unit for deaf children. Strong hearing aids meant I had some speech, so I could interact with other children, some of whom have become life-long friends.
“It was only really sport that I found difficult, for example swimming where I had to take my ‘ears’ out, or I simply couldn’t hear the teachers across a field. I didn’t win any awards for my athletic skills!”
However, what Amy did achieve was to attend university and qualify as a nurse, then put herself into situations that anyone would find daunting.
“I travelled for several years to Australia, New Zealand and Dubai to nurse children. This was extremely scary on my own, adjusting to new jobs and people. It was also a wonderful experience.”
The courage to ask for help
So why did this very capable, confident person need a hearing dog?
“Having children made me realise I needed help. Suddenly, it wasn't just me: I had little humans to care for.
“You know how, as a new parent, you’re acutely aware of the slightest whimper your baby makes, especially at night? Well I was acutely aware that I couldn’t hear those sounds. My husband could, but he works away a lot.
“When I was alone I worried that my battery had died on the vibrate monitor, that they could be crying and I would have no idea. I found myself waking every hour to check the children were asleep. This made me so tired, it affected other areas of my life. For example, my mum would stay overnight so that I could get enough sleep to focus at work the next day.”
Mene, the 'second pair of ears'
There can be few harder things for a mother to admit, than she needs help keeping her family safe. And yet this brave woman was courageous enough to admit to her deaf social worker that she needed help. It came in the form of a beautiful Cocker Spaniel hearing dog called Mene.
Mene had been trained specifically to look after people like Amy. As a puppy, we chose her from our breeding scheme because she had that special ‘spark’ that makes a great assistance dog. Then, she was an affectionate and outgoing puppy. Now, as a fully qualified hearing dog, Mene is loyal and loving.
“At first I tested Mene!”, Amy laughs. “I'd keep my hearing aids in and lie awake, waiting for the boys to cry, and see if she'd let me know – which of course she did. After that, I totally relaxed. Now, I am confident that Mene will wake me so I can meet the children’s needs. She helps me be a better mum.”
In the same way she thrived on the challenge of nursing children abroad, and today looks after children at a hospital, Amy can now get what she wants from her own family life too.
Indeed, Mene has given Amy the confidence to add another family member! “I’ve just had my third child, knowing I will be able to sleep when the baby sleeps, because I've got my little best friend to help me with a second pair of ears.
“Mene has allowed us to be a happy family that can function in a hearing world.”
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Our hearing dogs help deaf people overcome feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression and isolation. They also become a deaf person's best friend.