Hearing the World with Elroy

Written By: Kelly Yeager and Velvet Buehler  

It was that time of year again. The time when we, as clinical faculty, were ready to welcome our new (Au.D.) and speech-language pathology (SLP) graduate students. The weather was still warm with a few cooler nights in East Tennessee, which reminded us that it was time for football and the beginning of fall semester. Excitement was in the air!  

The orientation day was similar to many other days we had experienced in past years. Yet there was something different about this year. We had a new member of the Audiology Class of 2023.

At orientation, we welcomed our incoming class of 19 future audiologists and our new friend, Elroy. Elroy would be our first four-legged, tail-wagging, furry “student” to attend the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology.   

Elroy is a Golden Retriever and a hearing service dog for one of our incoming students, Lauren Armstrong. Lauren is 22 and was born with bilateral profound sensorineural hearing loss, which is hearing loss in both ears, and successfully uses two cochlear implants.

However, there are times when Lauren still misses sounds in her environment. This is where Elroy has helped changed Lauren’s life. Elroy was trained by nonprofit Canine Companions for Independence. He alerts Lauren to sounds in her environment and wakes her up every morning for class and clinic.

“Elroy can be my best friend and companion, but most importantly, he can work his job and allow me to be independent. He has given me a new confidence. He wakes me up every morning to an alarm I can’t hear; he helps me with cooking and when I am driving. For example, he alerted me to a police siren long before I could hear it. He alerts me when my name is called at coffee shops and restaurants. No more cold coffee!” He looks at sound and cues her to look for sound. Elroy is Lauren’s “second” ears.

The other unique aspect of Lauren’s journey with hearing loss is that she received early intervention services as an infant and learned to listen and speak at the very school she now attends, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Child Hearing Services Program. We can remember her walking, running and giggling down the halls in South Stadium as a toddler. Now, we will see her every day, walking the same halls as doctoral students with her four-legged hearing companion – Elroy

We look forward to joining Lauren, and Elroy, of course, as they work diligently to receive a Doctorate of Audiology and our first “Dog”torate of Audiology degree. We know they will be a true inspiration to our students and future audiologists to come.

Learn more about Lauren’s and Elroy’s story below:

UT Student, Service Dog Gaining National Attention (Video)

Meet 10 Therapy Animals, That are Helping Humans Live Their Best Lives

Winter Garden Residents Celebrate Graduation of Service Dog

22 Years After her First Cochlear Implant, a UT Student is on her way to Becoming an Audiologist

Audiology Student Breaks Barriers With Service Animal

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