Izanagi

5+ Year Member
Aug 3, 2014
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In high school, I began experiencing some high frequency hearing loss for no reason. It has progressively gotten worse to the point where my ability to discern high frequencies is worse than that of an 80 year old and I am now a candidate for hearing aids. My ENT and audiologist haven't been able to find a cause--and before anyone asks, they've already ruled out loud noise exposure, as my audiogram shows a steep drop off at high frequencies rather than the characteristic notch associated with NIHL. I've even had an MRI done to rule out the possibility of neurofibromatosis. The only saving grace is that I currently have above average hearing at low to mid frequencies. Things are loud, just not clear. I generally understand people just fine in quiet rooms, but throw background noise or high female voices into the mix, and I start to have trouble.

I'm still demoing my hearing aids and working with my audiologist to fine-tune them, but as of right now, their benefits seem questionable.

Recently, I completed my IPPE rotation at a community pharmacy. One thing that always gave me anxiety was answering the phone. I currently work at an LTC pharmacy where I don't have to deal with that sort of thing, so I've had little experience with it. My preceptor had me take a few verbal prescriptions and transfers over the phone, and in my transcriptions I butchered a lot of patient, physician, and drug names. I already have a hard enough time keeping up when the person on the other end talks too quickly, but to complicate matters, having them spell things out for me doesn't help much. Any letter that rhymes with E or F sounds similar to me over the phone, and I can tell that other physicians and pharmacists get annoyed after having to repeat themselves for the third time or having to resort to phonetic spelling.

I'm not sure whether this is a common issue that even people with normal hearing struggle with, or whether it's something that gets better with experience, or whether misspelling things is even that a big of a deal. My preceptor made no comment despite seeing that I clearly struggled with phone calls. But now I'm legitimately worried that my deafness will hurt me as a future pharmacist. I could potentially kill a patient or severely impede workflow. Would employers feel less inclined to hire me if they knew about my disability? I do not wish to work in retail post-graduation, so hopefully my job will revolve less around taking phone calls, but I also realize it's not something you can ever get away from entirely in this field.

Is it possible to still work in this profession with bad ears? Should I be reevaluating my career? Does anyone know any deaf or hard of hearing pharmacists?
 

6GodPharm

2+ Year Member
Jul 13, 2016
478
405
In high school, I began experiencing some high frequency hearing loss for no reason. It has progressively gotten worse to the point where my ability to discern high frequencies is worse than that of an 80 year old and I am now a candidate for hearing aids. My ENT and audiologist haven't been able to find a cause--and before anyone asks, they've already ruled out loud noise exposure, as my audiogram shows a steep drop off at high frequencies rather than the characteristic notch associated with NIHL. I've even had an MRI done to rule out the possibility of neurofibromatosis. The only saving grace is that I currently have above average hearing at low to mid frequencies. Things are loud, just not clear. I generally understand people just fine in quiet rooms, but throw background noise or high female voices into the mix, and I start to have trouble.

I'm still demoing my hearing aids and working with my audiologist to fine-tune them, but as of right now, their benefits seem questionable.

Recently, I completed my IPPE rotation at a community pharmacy. One thing that always gave me anxiety was answering the phone. I currently work at an LTC pharmacy where I don't have to deal with that sort of thing, so I've had little experience with it. My preceptor had me take a few verbal prescriptions and transfers over the phone, and in my transcriptions I butchered a lot of patient, physician, and drug names pretty badly. I already have a hard enough time keeping up when the person on the other end talks too quickly, but to complicate matters, having them spell things out for me doesn't help much. Any letter that rhymes with E or F sounds similar to me over the phone, and I can tell that other physicians and pharmacists get annoyed after having to repeat themselves for the third time or having to resort to phonetic spelling.

I'm not sure whether this is a common issue that even people with normal hearing struggle with, or whether it's something that gets better with experience, or whether misspelling things is even that a big of a deal. My preceptor made no comment despite seeing that I clearly struggled with phone calls. But now I'm legitimately worried that my deafness will hurt me as a future pharmacist. I could potentially kill a patient or severely impede workflow. Would employers feel less inclined to hire me if they knew about my disability? I do not wish to work in retail post-graduation, so hopefully my job will revolve less around taking phone calls, but I also realize it's not something you can ever get away from entirely in this field.

Is it possible to still work in this profession with bad ears? Should I be reevaluating my career? Does anyone know any deaf or hard of hearing pharmacists?
It will be difficult especially retail spots like CVS and Walgrees where speed is key. To top that off you have noise going on behind you, other techs talking on the phone and then the phone yelling "1 pharmacy call or Lane 1" at you. I would look into Hospital pharmacy or a closed pharmacy.
 

giga

U.S. Public Health Service
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Aug 23, 2005
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There are non-traditional settings that you can work in that don't depend as much on phone communication or do not have as much background noise. Also, with more experience with both the professional and with your hearing loss (i.e. learning how to adapt to the changes in your hearing), this will hopefully become less of a barrier for you in working in a pharmacy and finding employment. I personally know of one pharmacist who is hard of hearing / wears hearing aids (I do not know the details of their hearing impairment). They have a job doing pharmacy/health IT work for a large health care system.
 
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lord999

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The classical positions may not work too well (retail and basement pharmacist). If you are truly Social Security or physically deaf or blind, it actually becomes a specific licensing impediment (we do have blind and deaf pharmacists in practice, however, the board places employment restrictions on approving their roles). Informatics, industry work, and some of the non-traditional ones (nuclear, nutrition) are quite open to you though.

Actually, ADA doesn't cover that circumstance if it is a specific impediment to the normal functioning of that position. I have been in the unfortunate position in civil service to have to force reassign (SF-52 with R remarks) a hard of hearing pharmacist with hearing aids into a different job as the misheard orders resulted in issues. The pharmacist involved was beside herself and completely understood and went into her new role (Education Coordinator) with zeal, but if you are physically incapacitated from performing the normal duties of your job, ADA does not apply, and actually you can have your career and license restricted (in fact, you're supposed to report during initial licensure and renewal whether you have a physical or mental issue that prevents you from doing the normal tasks and either how you will work with that or restrict your practice to not include those elements). The one that is heartbreaking to me is that the civil service will not hire colorblind pharmacists even though I put in the paperwork to override on grounds that the positions I am hiring them for (informatics, patient safety, etc.) can be accomodated simply because the OPM rule states that a basic qualification of a pharmacist 0660 is to be able to distinguish basic colors.

That said, there are plenty of roles that can work out, but depending on how severe your handicap is, it may be not up to you on the circumstances of your practice.
 

giga

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Actually, ADA doesn't cover that circumstance if it is a specific impediment to the normal functioning of that position. I have been in the unfortunate position in civil service to have to force reassign (SF-52 with R remarks) a hard of hearing pharmacist with hearing aids into a different job as the misheard orders resulted in issues. The pharmacist involved was beside herself and completely understood and went into her new role (Education Coordinator) with zeal, but if you are physically incapacitated from performing the normal duties of your job, ADA does not apply, and actually you can have your career and license restricted (in fact, you're supposed to report during initial licensure and renewal whether you have a physical or mental issue that prevents you from doing the normal tasks and either how you will work with that or restrict your practice to not include those elements). The one that is heartbreaking to me is that the civil service will not hire colorblind pharmacists even though I put in the paperwork to override on grounds that the positions I am hiring them for (informatics, patient safety, etc.) can be accomodated simply because the OPM rule states that a basic qualification of a pharmacist 0660 is to be able to distinguish basic colors.
I stand corrected. Thanks for clarifying how ADA applies to this situation.
 

rph3664

7+ Year Member
Jul 5, 2010
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I had a classmate who wore hearing aids (don't know what field she ended up in after graduation) and have worked with a color-blind pharmacist. One thing I remember was that brand Diabeta tablets had the same imprints, and he couldn't tell green from blue so he would always ask someone what color it was so we would dispense the correct strength.

We worked at the grocery store, and one day, he asked me, "Why did they hang all gray banners from the ceiling?" I replied, "They aren't gray. They're silver and pink". They all looked gray to him.

One of my friends went to school, in the late 1960s no less, with a one-armed pharmacist. He had his own store for a while, and I met someone who had done some relief work for him and that person said he had all kinds of gadgets which enabled him to do everything with his one hand.
 

lord999

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https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/classification-qualifications/general-schedule-qualification-standards/drafts/0600.pdf

Look at 0660
Yeah, I really hate the hard rule in civil service about the colorblind pharmacist. Otherwise, it is a practice restriction in AZ if you are color-blind (as in you have to prospectively disclose to your employer this condition and it is noted by the board).

The other matters can be accomodated, but the "reasonable acommodations" that ADA refers to mean that they can still practice with the reasonable accomodation. The colorblindness is a specific medical disqualification for holding a pharmacist job anywhere within the civil service and uniformed and not waiveable or able to accomodate irrespective if the position does not need it. This applies retroactively in the civil service such that it automatically medically retires a pharmacist if discovered later on without getting a medical board at OPM to override this (it's not even up to your agency for a waiver as we found out). And the last 20 or 30 of them have been negative (the person was told that they can elect for medical disability retirement or be placed into another job series). There's some bureaucratic creativity possible, but it does mean that the worker cannot be used in any capacity that requires an official pharmacist as oversight.
 
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May 29, 2018
23
2
Hi So I have a similar story to Izanagi and I just graduated from pharmacy school, I am trying to explore pharmacy fields that have minimal phone usage. Can someone tell me if long term care pharmacy is appropriate for someone who has issues with phones?
What do Long term care pharmacist do?
 

owlegrad

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You might find an LTC job that doesn't require any phone use. Heck there are pharmacists at my job right now who I have never witnessed take a phone call, period. But in general yes LTC pharmacists are expected to take phoned in prescriptions, answer nurses questions, etc. It is A LOT less phone calls than retail but not zero.
 
Feb 16, 2018
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I feel for your situation. I worked with at tech one time had hearing loss in one ear and couldn't hear in that ear from behind even with a hearing aide. We would communicate it by speaking to her from the front. Just brainstorming academia might be a possibility. Maybe mailorder. If your hearing allows you to communicate face to face clinical roles for sure, never spent that much time on the phone in my clinical roles. I wish you the best of luck and if you keep trying you can find a good fit.
 
Feb 16, 2018
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Just found a listing at gallaudet university in stem program for public health faculty just a thought.