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NostalgicChills's avatar

Can someone who is hard of hearing become a marine biologist?

Asked by NostalgicChills (2769 points ) October 3rd, 2011

I wear hearing aids and have an 85% hearing loss without the hearing aids. All my life I’ve wanted to become a marine biologist, but the question is, can I? Would people hire me?
Do you think that within the next couple years, technology will advance so that hearing aids are made completely waterproof?

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17 Answers

geeky_mama's avatar

Forgive my ignorance—but I think that when people are diving they aren’t talking (you have the breathing apparatus in your mouth) likely it’s irrelevant that you can’t hear much underwater.
In fact, if you happen to know sign language and can communicate with other divers with hand gestures, that would be a positive, wouldn’t it?

As you have hearing aids for all land-based research activities…I don’t see that you’re at a disadvantage at all. I can’t see any reason for you not to pursue this career path. Go for it!

janbb's avatar

I think there is a growing impetus to hire people with disabilities and indeed, the ADA mandates “reasonable accomodations” be made so I think you would have a good chance. Having said that, I would talk to the people in marine biology at any university you are considering attending and get their opinion.

YoBob's avatar

Well, it has been my experience with Scuba diving that there is very little conversion involved when you are under water.

Male's avatar

I don’t see why not. I think there’s very little need for hearing itself when you’re diving or in the laboratory. It’s not like you’re gonna carry on a conversation underwater, and besides, you don’t always have to go in with a partner…you can always solo it too. Nonetheless, hearing aids are constantly improving as well. I say go for it.

Nullo's avatar

I would imagine that you don’t hear much that’s useful underwater. And we’re a pretty ingenious bunch – I’m sure that someone has had an idea for waterproof hearing aids.
@geeky_mama There is gear out there that lets divers communicate by radio.

LuckyGuy's avatar

A modified cochlear implant would work wonders. You could have it frequency shift sounds so you could hear sounds others cannot: whale calls, porpoise calls, etc. With an RF front end you could even communicate by radio !
Rather than a “disability” you would have extra sensory abilities!
Oh man! I gotta work on that!

YoBob's avatar

You know what would be really cool is to wear an underwater hearing aid that was optimized for the frequencies outside of “normal” human hearing that fish and marine mammals use to communicate.

LostInParadise's avatar

I offer this guy as an inspiration

jrpowell's avatar

I diving a big part of being a marine biologist? Part of me thinks that it is not.

YoBob's avatar

@johnpowell – I guess it really depends on what sub-branch of marine biology you pursue. I would think it’s kind of like being a doctor or lawyer. Not all doctors do surgery and not all lawyers do murder trials.

And speaking of those with physical challenges doing extraordinary things in an unlikely field, I offer you this

Or how about this guy who’s prosthetic legs give him such an edge that they were ruled as giving him too much of an unfair advantage to allow him to compete in the Olympics.

gorillapaws's avatar

@johnpowell it can be, but it really depends on the kind of research you’re doing. There are marine biologists with PhD’s that aren’t certified to scuba dive. My sister has her masters in marine biology and is working towards her PhD, and she does a lot of dive research, but many of her collegues do not. Marine biology is such a VAST field that you can find your niche without needing to dive.

Having said that, I’m not all that certain that you can’t dive with a hearing impairment as others have pointed out. There is a form of dive sign-language that is the standard way to communicate underwater anyways because you obviously can’t talk to each other. The only concern I might have is the ability for your dive partner to warn you of danger or to get your attention. When diving there is an “underwater clap” that is performed which is done to get the other person’s attention. Perhaps there is an underwater remote and a vibrating accessory that you could wear on your skin for this purpose, if this is critical.

Best of luck.

Hibernate's avatar

Yes you can but you have to ready to deal with the ignorants who’ll say you are not fitted for this job.

best of luck mate :P

flutherother's avatar

Let Evelyn Glennie be your inspiration.

Kayak8's avatar

I have a significant hearing loss and am quite capable. I have not been discriminated against because I am able to demonstrate my capability. I am also in the sciences (infectious diseases). I don’t think a hearing loss would prevent you from any level of success in marine biology. My dad was a marine biologist/chemist so I am familiar with the field.

NostalgicChills's avatar

Thanks everyone!
I am now fully inspired to be a Marine Biologist. :D

linguaphile's avatar

I know a few fully-deaf people who are marine biologists and work at different centers around the country. They’re proof that hearing loss has nothing to do with whether they can succeed or not.

It might become an issue if you want to become a marine biologists equipment salesperson and have to make frequent sales pitches, but for the work itself, so much of marine biology, is nonverbal anyway. Best of luck!

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I don’t see why not. They aren’t going to put you on the sonar phones, that’s for sure. You’ll probably not become captain of a research vessel. But most communications during dives are still done by hand signals. There’s a fundamental rule that you always dive with a buddy and you are never to be out of eyesight from them. There is also lab work, teaching, training, computer analysis of continuous incoming marine data—a whole bunch of stuff you can do.

The actual field work is a small part of marine biology. Divers are young athletes and often former Naval divers, Seals, Special Forces. Even if you earned a Phd, you probably wouldn’t make it to the A-team. They might take you down once or twice to treat the ol’ academic, but that’s about it. The groundbreaking stuff is done at desks and in labs, anyway. It can pay well and you can dive all you want on your own time.

As far as discrimination goes, you can never be sure. Job discrimination is almost unprovable. It depends on the outfit. I’ve found that the Feds are extremely strict about living up to their own laws. Federal outfits, such as NOAA and heavily federally funded groups such as Scripps Oceanic are good ones. I would definitely look into going to a school that already has a research lab in place. There are plenty of them with tuitions ranging from that of the famous Hopkins Marine Station at Stanford and the Hawai’i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL!) at the University of Hawaii to state colleges like Monterey and Santa Cruz. There’s something like 22 of these schools on the West Coast, 37 on the East Coast and 9 in the Caribbean. All are heavily or solely dependent on federal funding. I would apply to all of them if I wanted to work in Marine Biology. You might have a career in one of those labs. Ready made, before you even leave school.

You need good grades. And don’t fuck around—which could be very tempting at a school like Santa Cruz. It is a highly competitive field.

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