St Albans woman to BBC's Lifeline: 'How hearing dog transformed my life'

Shmita Vyas with her hearing dog. 

Shmita Vyas with her hearing dog. - Credit: Hearing Dogs for Deaf People

A deaf woman from St Albans credits her specially trained hearing assistance dog with transforming her life in the BBC’s monthly charity appeal programme, Lifeline.

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People’s Lifeline appeal, which first aired Sunday on BBC One, featured three people who have benefited from being partnered with a hearing dog, including Shmita Vyas.

During the ten-minute programme, presented by television and radio presenter Nicky Campbell, Shmita discusses her experiences with hearing loss and the impact cocker spaniel Harris has had on her life.

After an accident when she was six years old, Shmita lost her hearing. Her hearing loss left her feeling anxious all the time. Shmita lived with her two daughters who supported her but as they grew up and their work and studies meant they naturally had to live more independent lives, Shmita began to lose confidence and didn’t feel comfortable leaving the house without her daughters. 

Despite having a loving and supportive family, loneliness hit her hard. After learning about Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, Shmita and her family decided to apply for a hearing dog.

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People trains dogs to alert deaf children and adults to important and life-saving sounds they would otherwise miss – sounds like the doorbell, alarm clock and danger signals like the fire alarm. Being aware of these sounds makes a real difference to deaf people’s lives and can even save them.

Shmita Vyas with her hearing dog. 

Shmita Vyas with her hearing dog. - Credit: Hearing Dogs for Deaf People

The charity’s hearing dogs also provide constant emotional support and companionship, which is equally as important. A hearing dog can give a deaf person a newfound sense of independence and the confidence to reconnect with friends, family, their community and the world around them – something that Shmita praises Harris for doing in the programme.

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Shmita said: “When Harris arrived, my life suddenly changed. He’s amazing. The house no longer feels empty. The room lights up with Harris beside me and that makes me feel really, really, happy. I’m never lonely now.

“I now go out to the park with friends. He’s given me more confidence to do those things and he’s such good company.”

Shmita shared her story in the BBC Lifeline appeal to highlight the power that dogs have to connect people not only to other people but to the world around them. She hopes her story will encourage more people to support Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.

Demand for a hearing dog is high and the charity wants to train as many dogs as possible to help more deaf people like Shmita reconnect with life and leave loneliness behind. The charity relies on donations to continue its life-changing work.

Nicky Campbell donated his time to present the appeal on behalf of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People as, having received emotional support from his dog Maxwell, he has some personal understanding as to just how important companionship from dogs like Harris is to their deaf partners.

Shmita Vyas with her hearing dog. 

Shmita Vyas with her hearing dog. - Credit: Hearing Dogs for Deaf People

He said: “As a dog lover myself, I understand first-hand the difference a dog’s love, companionship and support can make to your life. These amazing hearing dogs have the power to help deaf people overcome feelings of loneliness, anxiety and isolation – something that can be common for people with hearing loss.”

The programme is now available to watch on BBC iPlayer: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001503g.

Further information about Hearing Dogs for Deaf People can be found at www.hearingdogs.org.uk.