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My name is Stuart and I have genetic sensorineural hearing loss and have worn hearing aids since 2004. I do not sign but rely largely on lip-reading to assist me in hearing others.

What is the job you love?

I am a Sport & Exercise Medicine Physician (specialist doctor) and work in private practice as well as looking after the Victorian and Australian Cricket Teams.

How did you get into this line of work?

I have always enjoyed working with people and despite my hearing impairment, or perhaps because of my hearing impairment, I have been a good listener and communicator with others – I believe a key ingredient to being a good doctor. I enjoyed the sciences, chemistry and learning about the human body at school, so medicine seemed like an interesting career option. It was a lot of hard work at university and I was allegedly the first medical student to pass through the course with severe hearing impairment. I had a note-taker to help me in lectures.

I have also been passionate about sport all my life and thus after completing my medical degree and dabbling in many different fields of medicine trying to find the right area of work for me, I decided to train further and specialise in Sports Medicine. I am now a fully qualified Sport & Exercise Medicine Physician and love the work with it’s variety and life balance.

I see patients with a vast array of musculoskeletal injuries both acute and chronic, as well as recreational or elite level athletes with medical conditions that interfere with their chosen sports. I also assist orthopaedic surgeons in operating theatre once or twice a week.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is the chance to work alongside some of the great athletes and sporting teams we have in Australia. I have worked at the Commonwealth Games, World Championship Diving & Waterpolo, Deaflympics, World Track Cycling, and have looked after VFL and TAC (under 18) elite football teams. I have toured overseas with national hockey and soccer teams. I have worked with the Victorian cricket team for the past 6 years and more recently the Australian cricket team.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

The job does require a reasonable amount of work on the phone and this can be difficult at times, but my iCom helps enormously. It can be long hours and I am often tired at week’s end with constant lipreading of my patients every day when I consult. This is largely offset by the rewarding nature of the work though – knowing that I’ve made a positive change to many of my patients’ lives.   

What advice would you give a deaf or hard of hearing person who is looking for a career like yours?

Medicine is not an easy career for anyone to pursue and requires a great deal of commitment, determination and dedication. It is important to have good support from family and friends to help you. I was very fortunate in this respect with my parents, and my disability liaison officer at university was fantastic.

Don’t be put off by the issue of hearing lecturers and note-taking – my note taker was a fellow student who typed notes on her laptop (a novelty at the time!) and laptops note taking would be prominent now as opposed to when I studied medicine. Some parts of medicine may prove difficult for those with severe hearing loss (eg using a stethoscope –  although I rarely use one in my line of work now) but not all areas of medicine require a high level of hearing.

Where there’s a will there’s a way – so never say never!! I had some struggles early on at university with my hearing impairment considered “too hard” for the faculty of medicine to deal with. Being stubborn, having support in fighting and standing strong made all the difference, and now I am the envy of many of my friends in my job.

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