Date of Degree


Document Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name





Barbara Weinstein

Subject Categories

Speech Pathology and Audiology


Usher syndome, leader dog, quality of life, hearing loss, aural rehabilitation


Background: Adults with Usher syndrome seeking audiologic rehabilitation and treatment often experience everyday difficulties that are not fully resolved using typical medical treatments. This case study examines the difficulties faced by individuals diagnosed with Usher syndrome in their everyday life, including quality of life, safety, and social issues. Additionally, the non-medical benefits that leader dogs can provide such individuals is also presented.

Method: A thorough literature review was performed to provide background information regarding Usher syndrome and the impact it has on the hearing and vision of affected individuals. A related literature review was performed to examine the role that leader dogs for those with hearing and vision loss play in their rehabilitation. To highlight the connections, an in-depth phone interview was conducted with an individual who was diagnosed with Usher syndrome, who is also a long- time proponent and user of leader dogs. The goal of this case study is to further understand and report on the everyday difficulties faced by someone with vision and hearing loss and highlight the benefits that arise from having a leader dog.

Results: Usher syndrome occurs in approximately 4 to 17 people per 100,000 people. It is a highly impactful and devastating diagnosis since it typically results in loss of both hearing and vision— two senses that importantly contribute to safety and communication. There are various medical treatment options available for patients diagnosed with Usher syndrome to improve their hearing and communication challenges associated with this syndrome. One non-medical intervention option that can assist such patients with both safety and communication that is often overlooked is leader dogs. Leader dogs provide a wide variety of benefits to those with hearing and vision loss; benefits that aren’t provided by typical medical treatments. These benefits include improvements in quality of life, safety, and psychosocial interactions.

Conclusions: Currently, there is limited data defining the benefits provided by hearing and vision leader dogs. Additional research on this topic is needed to better define the everyday benefits that those with hearing and vision loss can derive from use of a leader dog. Additional knowledge on this topic will enable clinicians to counsel patients regarding the benefits that a leader dog can provide when patients are dealing with everyday difficulties due to loss of vision and/or hearing.

Keywords: Usher syndrome; leader dog; service dog; hearing dog; vision loss; quality of life; psychosocial; social isolation; therapy; aural rehabilitation.