Progressive Deafness

A Junior Doctor with Progressive Deafness


A junior doctor with bilateral progressive deafness was seen in the Occupational Health Department at the start of his new training rotation.  The doctor had worn digital hearing aids for several years but his hearing had recently further deteriorated. The doctor had no problems speaking to patients on a one to one basis, but found it harder on the ward with generalised background noise. He could hear the fire alarm.

Following assessment of his duties and functional impairment, several issues and possible adjustments were identified and the following plan was put in place:

Adjustments and Advice:

It was recommended that the doctor apply for funding from Access to Work as soon as possible. (Access to Work will pay up to 100% of agreed costs if an individual applies within six weeks of starting work with a new employer)

  1. A vibrating bleep was provided
  2. The doctor was already using a digital stethoscope. Work in a clinical skills lab demonstrated he could hear well enough for clinical practice.
  3. The Trust arranged that he could use a text relay service through RNID Text Relay (now Action on Hearing Loss) to help communicate on the phone. The RNID supplied a confidentiality statement regarding patient information being texted.
  4. His mobile phone had a vibrate setting to alert him to incoming texts and calls.  He was supplied with a wireless Bluetooth loop set, which he wore round his neck. This allowed incoming calls to be accessed wirelessly through his hearing aid.
  5. He was also provided with a wireless digital listener for use in meetings or when there were a number of people talking at once.  The digital listener can be worn by the person speaking or placed in front of a group of people at a meeting. The speaker’s voice or sound source is picked up by a microphone and sent to a receiver, which relays directly to the hearing aid.
  6. It was suggested that he attend a local lip reading course to help when there was a lot of background noise
  7. The doctor was given information about two organisations. The UK Health Professionals with Hearing Loss is a network of deaf and hard-of-hearing health professionals who share information and support. The United States equivalent is The American Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Losses
  8. It is likely that the doctor would be covered by the disability discrimination provisions of the Equality Act 2010. Reasonable adjustments for consideration by his employer could include:
    1. Support to obtain and use appropriate equipment in the workplace
    2. Consideration of appropriate consultation length as text relay takes longer than speaking on the phone
    3. Time out to attend the lip reading course

The doctor found the range of support and adjustments very helpful and completed his rotation in the Trust.

During this time he accessed career counselling via the Professional Support Unit.