What is a Hearing Dog?

Hearing Dogs are specially trained to alert people who are deaf or hard of hearing to common household sounds such as door knocks, telephones, and smoke alarms.

Certified Hearing Dogs: A Certified Hearing Dog is professionally trained to alert a person to sounds in the home such as a cell phone ring, doorbell and smoke alarm. They are also trained for accompanying a person in public places where pet dogs are typically not permitted such as stores, restaurants and work places.

(Note: "Certification" is a label we use to mean a dog that is specially trained for public by one of our trainers. It is not a term used by the ADA).

Home Hearing Dogs: A Home Hearing Dog is trained to alert to sounds in the home only. Home Hearing Dogs do not have certification for public places. They are ideal for kids (over age 12) who can learn how to work with and care for a dog as well as an adult who prefers a Hearing Dog primarily for home.

How do we work?

Dogs in training are adopted from local animal shelters or did not complete training as Guide Dogs for people with vision loss. Candidates to be Hearing Dogs are friendly, confident, and demonstrate an interest in toys and treats. They are in excellent health, spayed or neutered and vaccinated.

Our dogs are socialized in public places, learn basic obedience commands, and are taught to alert to specific household sounds. The training is approximately 6 months, then are they matched with applicants who have been accepted to our wait list. Matches are made by the training staff and are not based on wait time but on suitability.

As a small program, we can offer a unique and personalized training experience for both our dogs and clients. Our instructors conduct a 4–5-day training orientation in the homes of all our new teams. Follow up support after placement of a Hearing Dog is essential for the success of a team and is always available as needed.

What can a Hearing Dog do for you in a public place?

A Hearing Dog is not formally trained to respond to sounds in public the same way they do in the home. In public settings, a Hearing Dog will be aware of their environment. Learning to be attentive to your dog’s natural reaction to sounds creates awareness of your surroundings. You may notice looking in the direction of sounds that your dog is hearing. Dogs need regular socialization and obedience practice in public settings to maintain certification.

Someone who depends on their dog for environmental awareness, travel or work outside the home will need regular outings with their dog, at least 3 times weekly.

If you do not wish to take your dog into public places, you may qualify for placement with a Home Hearing Dog. These are dogs that alert to sounds only in the home but do not have certification to accompany you in places such as indoor restaurants or grocery stores.

Is a Hearing Dog the Right Choice?

Hearing Dogs require your time.

A Hearing Dog needs daily care and exercise that includes a regular routine.
A Hearing Dog needs daily practice to be consistent and reliable with household sounds.
A Hearing Dog will make mistakes that need your help. A Hearing Dog needs to be praised and rewarded often.

Hearing Dogs require your patience.

A Hearing Dog may make mistakes that can be frustrating.
A Hearing Dog needs time to adjust to a new home and a new owner.
A Hearing Dog will make mistakes with their job and that means taking immediate time to practice.
A new Hearing Dog is young and active and might need help learning not to dig, jump, bark, or get in the garbage.

Readiness Checklist & Hearing Dog Application

The Sam Simon Foundation rescues dogs from animal shelters and professionally trains them to become assistance dogs for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

This video describes our Hearing Dog Program.

Who is eligible?

  • Residents of Central and Southern California, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and their surrounding communities
  • Severe to profound hearing loss (or greater) in both ears.
  • A desire for dog companionship.
  • No other pet dogs living in the home.

The wait time can vary depending on the number of dogs we have in training and a person's abilities and desire to be matched with various dog breeds and sizes.

We recommend you take the readiness checklist where you will also find our Hearing Dog Application to determine if our program is right for you.

Download, print and mail completed Hearing Dog Application, waiver and Audiologist Questionnaire (completed by your audiologist) with a recent audiogram (hearing test).

You will be notified by e-mail or phone when your application is received and reviewed by our team. Next step: you will be mailed a personal reference form and medical questionnaire (if applicable).

After receiving and reviewing your completed supplemental form(s), we will schedule a home visit with an instructor and dog-in-training.

We strive to create a safe, comfortable space in which to ask questions and understand how a Hearing Dog can best help you.

If our program is not going to be the best fit for you, we will make other recommendations where we can.

Approved applicants will be placed on a wait list and we will check-in by e-mail every 3 months until you are notified of a dog match.

Wait times vary but can be up to a year.

What can a Hearing Dog do for you in your home?

A Hearing Dog responds to household sounds that will be practiced daily. They cannot respond to running water, a pot of boiling water, sirens, burglars, or dangers for children. We can train your Hearing Dog to recognize and respond to the following repetitive household sounds: oven timer, telephone, your name being called, door knock, smoke alarm, alarm clock, and sometimes a baby cry.

Some dogs will alert you to other sounds once they are in the home such as the dryer buzzer and microwave. It takes time and effort on your part to have a reliable working dog. Dogs need consistency, practice and praise in order to be dependable.

What are the Requirements for
Adopting a Hearing Dog?

  • Love of dogs.
  • Time and ability to care for a dog.
  • No other pet dogs living in the home.
  • Desire to participate in training.
  • Finances to properly take care of a dog.
  • 21 years old for a Public Certified Hearing Dog.
  • 12 years or older for a Home Hearing Dog.

To receive a Hearing Dog that we Certify for Public Access

  • You must be at least 21 years old.
  • You must be physically and mentally able to keep a dog professional and well mannered in public.

What does a Hearing Dog cost?

The Sam Simon Foundation Assistance Dogs Program is administered by a Board of Directors that oversees funding by The Sam Simon Foundation Giving Fund.

There is no cost to anyone receiving a Hearing Dog but we do require the financial ability to provide a safe and healthy home as well as annual vet care, a quality diet, toys, treats and bedding.

Hearing Dog Application

To apply for a Hearing Dog, you will need to print and mail (or scan and email) a completed Hearing Dog Application and Audiologist questionnaire with a recent audiogram provided by your audiologist.

Please direct any questions you have with this to Jackie@samsimonfoundation.org

Readiness Checklist & Hearing Dog Application