Railway director goes deaf for the day onboard his trains

Chiltern Railways managing director Rob Brighouse with guide dog Rosie
Chiltern Railways managing director Rob Brighouse with guide dog Rosie

A Chiltern Railways boss went deaf for the day to experience what life without sound onboard his trains was like.

Managing director Rob Brighouse agreed to have gel moulds inserted into his ears by an audiologist at Specsavers Hearing Centre, which gave him a temporary 60% hearing loss.

Mr Brighouse said: “As soon as the gels were in my ears, I felt cut off from everyone around me.

“I knew that people were having a conversation, but I had no idea what they were talking about.

“I have become accustomed to the everyday sounds of the hustle and bustle at London Marylebone station, but suddenly everything around me was silent.

“I had lost completely control of the situation, I felt isolated and alone.”

Mr Brighouse quickly learnt that he would need to rely on lip-reading to communicate, but struggled with conversations especially if people turned away whilst talking to him.

He also realised how challenging it can be to cross the road, find the right train platform and buy a train ticket.

Mr Brighouse, who was put up to the challenge by Saunderton charity Hearing Dogs For Deaf People, said: “Deafness is an invisible disability and therefore it is impossible to see if somebody is deaf.

“When I tried to buy a train ticket, I had to repeat myself to the member of staff behind the desk.

“Once he realised I was deaf, he turned the speaker up to full volume which, although helpful, made it feel like everyone around me was listening in to my conversation and staring at me, which made me feel uncomfortable.”

When at Marylebone Railway Station, Mr Brighouse was given hearing dog Rosie, which not only alerted him to important sounds around him, but most importantly she made him feel visible and brought him back into the hearing world.

He said: “Having Rosie completely transformed my situation.

“She wears a burgundy jacket which made people aware that I was deaf so as well as alerting me to sounds I could no longer hear, Rosie encouraged people to come and talk to me which is so important when you are feeling isolated.

“I can only imagine what an amazing support these dogs provide to people with severe or profound hearing loss.”

Rosie is trained to alert a deaf person to many important sounds such as the telephone, doorbell and fire alarm, but she also helps to alleviate the loneliness and isolation that deafness so often brings.

Mr Brighouse said: “I was incredibly humbled by my deaf for the day experience, and amazed by the incredible difference that a hearing dog makes.

“Although Chiltern Railways has measures in place to accommodate deaf people such as staff training and visual aids on trains, we can support our staff even further with additional training to understand specific challenges deaf people face when using the railway.”

Every day in the UK, over 10 million people with hearing loss are faced with the communication barriers and isolation that Mr Brighouse experienced. Chiltern Railways have been working with Hearing Dogs for Deaf People for the last year, and recently chose Hearing Dogs as their Charity of the Year.

To watch Mr Brighouse’s deaf for the day video visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btSAviyNpY8