By Stephanie Stahl
CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND (CBS) — Man’s best friend comes to the aid of deaf children. New research shows hearing dogs can help both adults and children who struggle with hearing loss. The new British research found hearing dogs give deaf children more confidence, make them feel safer, and help everyone in the family sleep better.
A highly-trained cockapoodle named Maddy is the personal messenger of 11-year-old Poppy Nicholson, who has been deaf since birth, in Cambridge, England. The hearing dog was matched with Poppy as part of a research project to see how deaf children might benefit.
“She’s very special to me,” said Poppy. She doesn’t wear her hearing aids in the house, so she uses Maddy’s ears. The dog listens for a buzzer to tell Poppy she’s brushed her teeth for two minutes. And for an alarm when it’s time to wake up in the morning.
Poppy says having Maddy has dramatically improved her life. She’s happier, and her family sees a big difference with her self esteem.
“For us, it’s reassuring, because we know she feels so good about herself to the point she’s proud to be deaf,” said Olivia Nicholson, Poppy’s mom.
The dog has helped build her confidence. Poppy no longer tries to hide her hearing aids, even though people still have strange reactions to her.
“[They’re] not sure how to speak to me because they would think I couldn’t actually hear them, but I would,” said Poppy.
Now, she just smiles and introduces her new best friend.
It takes four to six months to train hearing dogs to respond and be alert to about half a dozen sounds. They come from a variety of organizations and are usually free to those in need.