"My children can enjoy being kids again"

Joanna and JoeyMum-of-three Joanna struggled for many years with tinnitus and mild hearing loss. It came as a shock however, when she was told her hearing had deteriorated so much she needed hearing aids.

Despite this diagnosis, Joanna was in denial and struggled to accept her deafness. This made her day-to-day life increasingly difficult.

She says: “Supermarkets were a challenge. I’ve been asked to move out of the way but I didn’t hear. One person even pushed their trolley into the back of my legs to make a point.”

Without her ever asking for help, Joanna’s three amazing children rallied round to support her.

Working together

Joanna explains: “They worked as a team to tell me about all sorts of sounds – alarms, people knocking on the door – and really helped in shops. They’d explain to people that I’m deaf and repeat to me what people said if I didn’t catch it. I was relying on them more than any of us realised at the time.

“It was lovely that they wanted to help, but as their mum, I felt guilty about depending on my children. I never asked them to do anything: they just naturally wanted to support me. Still, I wanted them to play without worrying about me. I felt like I was hindering their carefree childhood years.

“This along with the anxiety of not hearing them in our home – if they were crying in the night for example – made it difficult for me to cope with everyday life.”

Then one day, Joanna was in a shop and she spotted a hearing dog partnership. Having been a puppy socialising volunteer in the past, she stopped to talk to the man and his hearing dog. During their chat, an alarm went off. “I didn’t hear it,” Joanna explains. “The recipient simply said: ‘If you can’t hear that alarm you should apply for a hearing dog.’ I realised, there and then, that I was not hearing the sounds that hearing dogs alert people to. It was time to accept my deafness, and to do something about it.

She applied, hearing dog Joey bounded into her life – and changed it completely.

The Thompson family and hearing dog JoeyJoanna explains: “It’s such a relief not having to rely on others anymore. My children feel less responsible for me. My son says Joey ‘has my back’ now. We love our dog walks together, especially when people stop us to chat about Joey. Instead of guilt and anxiety, there is a feeling of freedom and joy and laughter.

“I feel proud to take Joey everywhere with me. He’s given me a new-found confidence. I’m even going to be a volunteer speaker for Hearing Dogs. He helps my children too. They know they can give the ‘call mum’ sign and Joey will run off to find me.

“Now they can play in the garden, play their video games, and listen to music without ever having to worry about me. Joey’s given them their childhood back, and that is the greatest gift.”