“With hearing dog Eddison, my anxiety just lifts”

Chalky constantly worried about the future. What if she couldn’t hear the smoke alarm? What if a burglar broke in and she didn’t know? What if her daughter lost her childhood, because Chalky relied on her so much?

Today, Chalky doesn’t worry about the future. Hearing dog Eddison, with his big, laid-back personality, just looks into her eyes, and her anxiety melts away.

Chalky sitting outside and to the right of hearing dog Eddison and stroking him on his neck

I was diagnosed profoundly deaf aged three. My parents did everything they could to help me. I was fitted with hearing aids, and went to a primary school with one-to-one teaching support, where I learned to lip-read.

Then, when I went to a specialist boarding school aged 11, I started to learn BSL. I really loved it! I remember thinking ‘Oh yes, I really like this.’ BSL is still my preferred way of communicating – and it’s how, today, I teach other deaf children.

I’m a teacher because I want to help remove the barriers to education that deaf children can experience. I want them to have complete access to education, and build the confidence to engage with the world.

This is because of my experiences. Despite having a fulfilling career, I have sometimes found barriers insurmountable. We can all feel isolated and worried sometimes. However, for me, my deafness and anxiety for the future started to make life very difficult.

Chalky on her own starting into the distance

When myself and my young daughter lived alone, I had many sleepless nights, worrying about the fire alarm going off or a burglar getting into the house. I was also concerned about my daughter’s wellbeing, I wanted her to experience childhood, and not feel she had to look after me. I wanted to be a ‘real mum’ and look after her instead.

I also felt frustrated when I just couldn’t communicate with people. Every time I asked someone to repeat themselves, and they said ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter’, my confidence took a knock. There’s only so many knocks you can take before you’re down.

I was constantly worrying about ‘what if this’ and ‘what if that’ and, as it became more difficult to communicate with people, I found it easier just not to try. So, I started to feel very isolated too.

When my hearing dog Eddison came into my life, everything changed. Now, I know that Eddison will tell me about burglar alarms or smoke alarms. I also don’t worry about my daughter having to look after me. With Eddison, I know we are safe, and that my daughter won’t grow up with me relying on her.

Eddison also helped during lockdown. There were even more barriers, because people wore face coverings, so I couldn’t lip-read. I also had to home-school my daughter, while teaching deaf children remotely. I started to worry about everything again, especially about the future for myself and my daughter.

A close up of hearing dog Eddison, Chalky's daughter and Chalky all sitting together outside

As everything else was changing, Eddison’s support remained the same. He helped me to calm down. There’s just something about him.

Today, as government restrictions are easing, I’m getting out and about more. Eddison’s burgundy coat tells people I’m deaf, so they voluntarily lower their face coverings now, which is a real help and eases my anxieties.

My work involves visits to schools, nurseries and colleges. Eddison is with me wherever I go. During lessons he just chills out, happy in his world, but before and after, he gets a lot of fuss from the children! I’ve taught children right through from first day at school to college. It can be very emotional when you see the difference you’ve made to a child.

I get very emotional too, when I think about the difference Eddison has made to my life and to my daughter’s life. He’s always there for me, always with me. He’s always giving me that eye contact, letting me know he’s still there and that everything is OK.