“I was on the verge of suicide before I met my hearing dog.”
Brighton resident Lisa Dower started to lose her hearing in her 40s. This week, as part of Tinnitus Awareness Week she is speaking out about her journey with hearing loss, tinnitus and how her life-changing hearing dog brought her back from the brink of suicide.
As well as debilitating hearing loss, Lisa suffers from Tinnitus, a condition affecting an estimated 10% of the UK adult population*. Hearing loss is an invisible disability and too often causes sufferers to become socially isolated, withdrawn from society and robbed of their confidence.
“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. It’s stressful and immensely tiring. 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.
Shortly after her attempt to take her own life, Lisa adopted a new, positive approach to her life and to her hearing loss. This newly-found positivity led her to apply for a hearing dog. Lisa’s life changed forever, when Hearing Dogs for Deaf People matched her with Kelly, a golden Labrador Retriever specially trained by the national charity to alert Lisa to vital sounds that she could no longer hear.
“Kelly 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. She has given me my independence back and allowed me to move on with my life again. From being isolated and a virtual recluse Kelly has changed my life – given me life even.
“Kelly’s burgundy jacket opens 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’.
“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 for Deaf People is the only UK charity that trains amazing dogs to alert deaf people to vital sounds in the home and out and about. The Charity is turning 35 in 2017 and is encouraging the public to sponsor a puppy to help fund the training of more life-changing hearing dogs for deaf people like Lisa. Hearing dogs provide a special kind of independence, confidence and companionship to those living in a scary and isolating world, boosting wellbeing and improving mental health.