Residents will have a chance to learn more about hearing loss, hearing aids and the hearing dogs now used to assist those with hearing loss when Advanced Diagnostic and Hearing Solutions at 522 Oakfield Dr., Brandon, hosts a presentation Saturday, May 5, from 10:30 a.m. to noon.
Bloomingdale East resident and hearing loss advocate Cynthia Moynihan and her hearing dog Larue will be on hand to answer questions about hearing dogs as well as the impact of hearing loss on family and friends.
"We want to raise the level of awareness about hearing loss," said Moynihan. "Hearing loss is becoming a serious issue in the United States. One in three teenagers now have hearing loss."
Also on hand for the presentation will be audiologist Dr. Lisa Tanner and Scott Rinehart of Cochlear Americas, the world leader in hearing solutions, who will talk about the newest technology to help those with hearing loss.
"Our hearing team will talk about hearing loss and the impact on the family," said Moynihan. "I'm seeing a real need to help family members and friends impacted by the hearing loss."
She will also discuss how to apply for a hearing dog through the national nonprofit, Canine Companions for Independence.
Moynihan was born with a hereditary hearing loss that wasn't diagnosed until she was in the third grade. Her condition worsened as she grew older. Today, the mother of two depends on hearing aids to hear.
She said she resisted getting a hearing dog through Canine Companions for Independence because she always felt there was someone worse off than herself who needed a dog more.
"My dear friend and audiologist Lisa Tanner was pushing me for several years to get a dog. But I was concerned. I thought I'd be taking away from someone who needed a dog," she said. "Little did I know how badly I needed a dog.
"I can't tell you what she's meant to me," said Moynihan. "She has brought unfound freedom to me I can't put into words."
CCI provides hearing and service dogs to people with a variety of disabilities free of charge.
The puppies destined to be hearing or service dogs are handed over to volunteers to raise for 15 months where they learn basic commands. Then the dogs return to CCI where they undergo more intense training to become a service dog or hearing dog.
"To qualify for a hearing or service dog, you fill out an initial application online, then submit paperwork, answering questions about your lifestyle, family and environment," said Moynihan. Next comes a phone interview followed by a face-to-face interview at a CCI campus where the applicant is able to interact with a dog.
"Then you're put on a waiting list," said Moynihan. "It takes a year and a half on the average to get a dog."
Moynihan then flew to the CCI campus in Santa Rosa, CA, to undergo two weeks of training before receiving her hearing dog, Larue, last September.
"We went through some pretty intense training for two weeks, and then they had a graduation. There were six people in my class and I was chosen to be the guest speaker at the graduation, which was a great privilege."
Moynihan also had a chance to meet the family that raised her Labrador and golden retriever mix.
Moynihan said the dog has given her a degree of freedom she didn't have before.
"When I first got home, I was taking a shower and I didn't have my hearing aids in," recalled Moynihan. "Larue came into the bathroom and alerted me that the phone was ringing by nudging me. I got so teary eyed, I forgot to answer the phone. It was a huge moment for me."
In addition to alerting Moynihan to a ringing telephone, the dog lets her know when the doorbell rings, when her children are calling for her, even when the smoke alarm sounds.
But, even more important to Moynihan, the dog helps bridge the gap between Moynihan and the public.
"Before, when I was out in public, I would have people who would talk to me and think I was being unkind because I wouldn't respond," she said. "Larue has a lead that reads "Hearing Dog" and lets people know I can't hear them. In fact, more people attempt to talk to me because of the dog."
Living with Larue has proved such a rewarding experience for Moynihan, she's now helping others needing service dogs.
Residents can find out more about Larue at the presentation Saturday. There also will be refreshments and coupons for free hearing screenings.
For more information, call 813-315-9850.