After 19 years of working at Vodafone, earlier this year Richard Purnell suddenly suffered sensorineural hearing loss overnight in both ears.
“I woke up in January and knew something wasn’t quite right, I could hardly hear anything,” says Richard.
After numerous hospital visits, tests and MRI scans, Richard was told he’d lost high frequency hearing around the conversational speech range. “I could hear low frequencies, so car exhausts, tyres on the road, bangs and things like that, but the higher frequencies get filtered out.”
Now wearing hearing aids, he has access to sound but will still miss parts of the conversation. “Quite often you hear something, but you don't hear everything,” he explains.
An extrovert by nature, Richard says he has become more introverted as a result. “I've got to find a quiet corner now,” Richard says about coming into the office. “I have to think about things like acoustics. Is the floor carpeted or tiled? Is the wall plasterboard or glass and how does sound bounce around and reverberate?”
Coming back to work, he praises the support he was given and explains how he has found new ways of working.
Using a special microphone both at home and in the office, Richard can stream sound straight to his hearing aids, reducing background noise and helping him focus on what he’s trying to listen to.
In addition, he uses captions when on video calls but the constant reading means his biggest challenge now is listening fatigue.
“During the day I'll have four 10–15-minute breaks, to recharge both myself and the hearing aids,” explains Richard.
And it’s not just him who has changed how he works. His team now mute their calls and use captions to communicate too.
“Having meetings like this with the team, they're always more structured because they don't talk over each other anymore. They talk one at a time because they have had captions on the screen and appreciate how hard it is to keep up.”