“I was on the verge of suicide before I met my hearing dog”
When Lisa Dower’s hearing loss started to deteriorate in her 40s, she became more and more socially isolated and afraid. She wasn’t in a good place and even began feeling suicidal. Whenever her husband had to go away with work, her son James was terrified to leave her alone and felt powerless to help.
But since Lisa got her hearing dog Kelly, her life has truly been transformed.
Read her story below.
“I have had hearing loss since I was born but I have become profoundly deaf as an adult. I have what’s called bilateral severe sensory neural hearing loss and intrusive tinnitus. Translated, that means I’m deaf in both ears and have unwelcome sounds in my head much of the time.
“I have worn hearing aids much of my adult life but normal sounds and voices are still inaudible. Syllables sound blurry, background noise overloads my senses to the point where I cannot concentrate or cope any more. I hear loud, then mixed-up, noises. Meeting people and trying to keep up with a conversation by lip reading is just not realistic – so I began not to bother most of the time.
“Concentrating so hard brings on panic and makes me lose control. It’s stressful and immensely tiring. And the dark of the night doesn’t give me timeout either as my tinnitus fills my head with scary growly and ringing noises.
“In my 40s I found I was becoming increasingly isolated, withdrawing from social situations and feeling afraid much of the time. Even though I have a loving husband and children, life became intolerable. My confidence and independence were shattered.
“Exhausted and worn down with the constant strain of trying to translate a hubbub of sounds into something my brain could comprehend, I was mentally and physically exhausted and I had a breakdown. I felt so desperate that I even tried to commit suicide.
“I had never really accepted my hearing loss but at this low point I began to realise I had to. As part of my new, positive approach to my disability I decided to apply for a hearing dog to help me get better at living in a hearing world.
Then Lisa’s life changed when she met her hearing dog Kelly
“Last summer, after a long and careful matching process, my hearing dog Kelly arrived.
“She is a Labrador Retriever cross and she has changed my life in so many ways. I loved her from the day she arrived but time has nurtured an even stronger bond of trust and confidence between us. We start our day with Kelly alerting me to my alarm clock (no chance of a lie-in!). When I am getting dressed she waits patiently, listening for alerts on my mobile phone or the door bell to ring or the family calling her to ask her to ‘call Mum’ and take me to them.
“She has given me my independence back and allowed me to move on with my life again – step by step.
“From being isolated and a virtual recluse Kelly has changed my life – given me life even. I feel confident enough to go out more – swimming, an art class, attending Rethink Mental Health activities and hopefully new things soon.
“The doctors and the hospital are not such a frightening experience either anymore as Kelly boldly walks next to me, her burgundy jacket opening that closed door I have hidden behind for so long saying ‘my mum’s deaf she has a disability that means she can’t hear’.
“I feel brave enough to use public transport too – confident that I am not going to end up in Timbuktu because other travellers see Kelly, understand that I am deaf and help me in the right direction. And I’m gradually feeling better about being left at home alone too as Kelly would alert me to danger signals like the smoke alarm.
“My son James describes Kelly as the new set of ears I had dreamed of having. Kelly is my best friend. She is a loyal and devoted companion. She shares everyday with me and keeps me safe even when I am asleep. Life is an adventure now; so much time has been lost and so much more to achieve.”
Hearing dogs have changed the life of lots more deaf people
We’ve helped thousands of deaf people like Lisa overcome anxiety, loneliness and isolation thanks to our clever canines.