Being deaf and working as a dentist – my experience

Sharing the challenges he has faced as a deaf dentist, Walid Hassoon calls for more inclusion and compassion within the profession. 

Working as a deaf dentist in the midst of a Covid pandemic has had its challenges.

I was born with Pendred syndrome, which causes profound hearing loss. Diagnosed at two years old, I have been wearing bilateral hearing aids ever since. Consequently, I have become reliant on lip reading to communicate with colleagues and patients alike.

With the introduction of mandatory masks within the workplace as Covid-19 swept across the world, suddenly what was a hidden disability became glaringly obvious.

Stripped of my main means of communication, I faced constant barriers from frustrated and exasperated colleagues having to repeat themselves. Like anything, it was a challenge I had to overcome.

Reflecting on discrimination 

Embarking on my dental journey as a student, I was fortunate to have had many inspiring teachers along the way. These teachers refused to allow my deafness to define me or hold me back.

I was well supported as a student. I had a provision of a note taker during lectures and an FM radio aid system. This helped transfer the amplified voice of the lecturer directly to my hearing aids via a receiver.

However, to access this vital support is often a lengthy and bureaucratic process which required immense perseverance and time. I was often backed by my supportive parents to facilitate this.

Graduating as a dentist is one of my proudest moment. I entered the profession eager and enthusiastic to have a long and successful career.

I get enormous satisfaction from the hands-on nature of our job making tangible differences to our patients smile and dental health.

As we embark on a post Covid world, I must reflect on the discrimination and employer misconceptions I have faced. As we tried to contend with a new terrible global disease, I felt that there wasn’t enough inclusion and acceptance of our workforce. Through no fault of their own, they felt marginalised and had their needs excluded.

Ever the optimist, I hope that with the new PPE advancements, the lessons learnt and with a compassionate attitude we can allow all staff members of various backgrounds to feel valued, part of the team and thrive in this great profession.

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