Steven Jeske, CMA (AAMA), woke up one morning in September 2013 expecting his usual routine: get dressed, eat breakfast, and head to work. But, to his complete surprise, his life would be forever changed. Jeske discovered he was deaf in his right ear.

“I was checked out in the ER and then with my ENT [ear, nose, and throat] doctor. After a couple of weeks of medications and scans, it was determined that I would most likely never regain my hearing,” says Jeske. “The doctors don’t know what caused this.”

At the time, he was working at Greenheck Health and Wellness Center in Schofield, Wisconsin, performing medical assisting duties. “I went back to work immediately afterward, but it was very difficult coping with the way I heard and comprehended what was being said. It was frustrating … people did not understand the loss I had and how they should communicate with me,” explains Jeske.

He stuck out the job for another seven months and then landed a new position with North Central Health Care in April 2014. Still, Jeske went on to work with no hearing in his right ear and minimal hearing in his left for three more years.

“I had days where I thought it would be better to go on disability than continue working because of the limitations [my hearing loss] caused. Working with those around me who understood my disability made it worth it to keep working,” says Jeske.

In fact, one of his coworkers suggested he connect with the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, which helps people with disabilities either keep their current jobs or find new and better-suited positions.

“I contacted them and filled out the paperwork to see if I qualified. I was told I did qualify, and I was set up for an assessment to determine which equipment would work for me at my job and at home,” explains Jeske.

Last year, the program provided Jeske with about $15,000 worth of equipment, including Bluetooth hearing aids, Bluetooth devices used to access his phones and messages hands-free, a microphone and receiver set for large conferences, and a pedestal for his phone that lights up and makes a loud noise when it rings. He also received a device that makes his office door flash whenever someone knocks. For home, he received an alarm clock that shakes the bed when it goes off.

“My employer and fellow employees are fully supportive of this technology and have been very understanding of my disability. [They] know the equipment did not replace what I lost but amplified what I still had so that I could continue my work,” says Jeske.

“When I lost my hearing, taking phone calls and hearing my coworkers and things in my surroundings became very difficult and caused me to become frustrated, because I could not accomplish what I wanted to do,” says Jeske. “Now, I enjoy working with my fellow employees and meeting new people. What is most rewarding is dealing with the needs of others.”

Jeske is currently taking sign language courses in case he also becomes completely deaf in his left ear. And he’s not stopping there. “Before becoming a medical assistant, I was a certified nursing assistant for six years. I am looking at going back to school to finish getting my nursing degree,” he says.