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Hearing heroes

Dogs have long been regarded as our best friends and these days canines are far more than just companions.


Dogs have long been regarded as our best friends and these days canines are far more than just companions. The skills and talents of dogs are increasingly valued for search and rescue activities, in police and military work, to detect disease and to help people to navigate everyday life.

Hearing assistance dogs

One type of service dog you may not be familiar with are hearing assistance dogs. Hearing assistance dogs are trained to alert their owners to a range of sounds at home and in the community.

At home, hearing assistance dogs help their owners to know when a phone or alarm is ringing, when someone is at the door or if a baby is crying, an important sound for new parents who are deaf or hard of hearing. Hearing assistance dogs are also trained to respond to household emergencies like falls or smoke alarms.

Like other accredited service dogs, hearing assistance dogs are permitted to enter shops, restaurants and public transport with their owner. In the community, hearing assistance dogs assist their owners to pick up on environmental sounds they might otherwise miss, like a person coming up behind them with a trolley.

About Australian Lions Hearing Dogs

Australian Lions Hearing DogsExternal Link started in 1980 and since its inception has trained and placed 620 dogs. The cost to train an Australian Lions Hearing Dog is currently $37,000, however they are provided free of charge to deaf and hard of hearing Australians thanks to the generosity of donors.

Unlike some other service dogs, hearing assistance dogs come in all shapes, sizes and breeds and often come from pounds and rescue organisations. Dogs aged six-months to two-years-old take part in an advanced training program at the Australian Lions Hearing Dogs National Headquarters and Training Centre in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia before they are ready for their new home.

Aidan’s story

For Aidan, receiving his hearing assistance dog Peterson was life-changing. When he was six-years-old, Aidan developed a brain tumour and lost a significant part of his hearing as a result of the intense chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment. Over the 21 years since, Aidan’s hearing has decreased in intervals, until about 18-months ago when Aidan found himself completely deaf.

Aidan received a cochlear implant around the same time as he applied for his hearing assistance dog, and was unsure if he would need the support of a dog with his new cochlear implant and assistive technology. Until Peterson arrived, Aidan was apprehensive about how a hearing dog could help him in day-to-day life. Aidan also felt socially isolated and worried about his safety.

Hearing Heroes image of Aiden wearing a white tshirt and his hearing assistance dog Peterson who is white and fluffy, in their backyard

Having a hearing assistance dog has helped Aidan with things he couldn’t even imagine.

“Peterson helps me with hearing around the house, but more than that, he helps keep me in a routine, motivates me to get ‘out-and-about’ more. I’m so much more active in the community,” Aidan says.

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Aidan was home more than usual and having Peterson with him meant they could use the time to bond, garden and cuddle with his newest friend. Their bond is unbreakable.

To find out more about hearing assistance dogs, visit the Australian Lions Hearing Dogs websiteExternal Link .

Reviewed 08 February 2024