"Ten years ago, I woke up one morning to discover I’d lost most of my hearing. I only realised something was wrong when I saw that my wife was speaking to me - but I couldn’t hear what she was saying. My hearing had been wiped out overnight.
To this day, doctors still can’t say why it happened, but after a number of tests and scans I was told that the hearing loss was permanent, and that I’d need two hearing aids. Within 24 hours my life had changed completely.
At that point I was almost 20 years into a career as a firefighter, a job I love. That was my greatest fear - that I would no longer be able to be out there, fighting fires. I was worried that I’d be found another role, sat behind a desk, and would complete the last years of my career doing something I didn’t want to do.
I was the first firefighter in the UK to be a double hearing-aid wearer, so there were no policies in place for me. When I came back to work, I had a meeting with my senior officer and I told him: 'I want to be back doing the job I love'. He simply said to me: 'So what do we need to do to help you?' It wasn’t a problem. Thankfully being a firefighter means you’re part of a team that supports you no matter what.
The HR department devised different tests that I had to pass to be at the required level, including functional hearing tests. Access to Work came in and helped the station implement adjustments to help me. They re-wrote the whole hearing policy to incorporate hearing aids and reasonable adjustments – a policy that has now helped firefighters in similar positions in other brigades.
Around five months after I’d lost my hearing, I was back and fully operational on the fire engine.
Being able to do my final 10 years riding the fire engines was a massive thing for me. I’m retiring in 18 months, so touch wood – despite having lost my hearing – I’m almost there. I think my experience shows that with the right support, hearing loss doesn’t need to be a barrier for anyone."
Our Working for Change campaign aims to improve attitudes to hearing loss in the workplace. Whether you’re an employee or an employer, we need your help.