“I was trapped by deafness for 12 years”

John knew he had a problem when a fire alarm went off and he didn't hear it. As his hearing declined, he started to go in on himself, and felt trapped. With hearing dog Theo's help, he's now happy to meet people again, to be free...

I went shopping. A fire alarm went off. I didn't hear it. I just carried on.

Somebody grabbed hold of me and I wondered what was going on. He marched me to the front door of the shop. There were three fire engines outside. That’s when I realised I had a serious problem.

My name’s John. I wasn’t born deaf. I just got progressively more deaf with age. It was so slow, I didn’t notice it – until that day.

You see, until then, I hadn’t really admitted to a problem. My family had put up with the TV getting louder, and having to repeat themselves over and over again. I’d just pretended everything was OK. But that day, finally, I realised everything wasn’t OK. I wasn’t OK. I didn’t feel safe any more.

It was traumatic. I went home. I told my wife and daughters. We started to realise what had happened – and what could have happened. We decided it was best all round if I only left the house with someone to accompany me.

I had my ears tested and they classed me as profoundly deaf.

‘Profoundly deaf’. That was me. It changed everything. I started to go into myself. I didn’t like going out. I didn’t like people talking to me. I would stand in the background, head down as if to say: “Leave me alone, I don’t want to talk”. I only felt safe at home. I felt so isolated. And this went on for 12 years.

I was trapped by deafness for 12 years.

One day, we saw a TV programme about hearing dogs. Bernadette, my youngest daughter, looked online, and found Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. We applied… and my life changed. 

I believe I was destined to meet hearing dog Theo.

Throughout this amazing little dog’s life – breeders weaning him, volunteers raising him, trainers teaching him to recognise sounds, the research to match him to a suitable recipient, donors helping pay for all this – I’m sure it was written in the stars that Theo would be mine.

Because when we first met, Theo came right up to me. Some of my family was there, and trainers too. But Theo came directly to me. He seemed to sense I was the one that needed help. It was love at first sight. I still get emotional about it, just talking about him and how he’s helped me.

Theo has given me courage – the desire, the will – to escape my prison. Now, thanks to Theo, I’m free.

We go out together, and meet people. He’s very friendly and sociable. Out shopping, it’s really funny. If he wants to say hello to someone, he’ll stop, stare and wag his tail. They’ll ask if it’s OK to say hello back! That gets me speaking to people, and I love it. My wife jokes that whereas before I’d shut down, now I won’t shut up!

The way I see it, if you could get a set of scales, Theo on one side, gold on the other, then multiply that by a hundred, that’s his worth. He’s my world and I wouldn’t, couldn’t be without him.

I wonder how many other people today are like I was then, suffering in silence, trapped in their homes because their deafness makes them too scared to venture out? Even one more person is too many. Could you give even a small amount, and help another deaf person escape their prison? Do you think you could help? It would be wonderful if you could.

However you decide, thank you for reading about me and my wonderful Theo.

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