This study investigates the relationship between D/deaf identity and attitudes regarding partnerships between trained hearing dogs and D/deaf and hard of hearing individuals.
Previous studies have examined the impact of hearing dogs on their human partners' lives, while others have collected data regarding hearing dogs' training and skills, and others still have investigated the benefits and disadvantages to hearing dog use as reported by human partners of hearing dogs (Guest, Collis, & McNicholas, 2006; Hart, Zasloff, & Benfatto, 1995; Mowry, et al., 1994). However, D/deaf and hard of hearing individuals' perceptions of hearing dog use is a topic often overlooked within both assistance dog-related literature as well as literature by, for, and about people with hearing loss. Additionally, as few prior studies examined aspects related to the complexities of D/deaf identity and acculturation in relationship to hearing dogs, such results may be less accurate or generalizable.
The current study seeks to fill this gap. It employs a quantitative approach to understanding individuals' attitudes in terms of perceived utility, attractiveness, and social desirability of hearing dog use. These factors are examined in the context of general attitudes towards dogs, current use and perceived benefits of assistive technology, and reasons to accept or decline hearing dog ownership among other demographic factors. Responses of hearing dog owners and non-owners were also compared.
This study hypothesized that statistically significant differences in attitudes toward hearing dogs would emerge among participants when individuals were identified based on self-selected identity and acculturation status. Results indicated that individuals self-identifying as hearing-impaired, late-deafened, and hard of hearing demonstrated more positive attitudes toward hearing dog partnerships in comparison with individuals self-identifying as Deaf. Comparison of attitudes by acculturation status did not indicate significant differences among groups.
Study findings have the potential to contribute to future research in psychology, Deaf studies, and the growing Human-Animal Interaction (HAI) research fields.