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Teen with hearing loss studies medicine

Will Moseley-Roberts
Will Moseley-Roberts Image credit: walesonline.co.uk

When Will Moseley-Roberts was advised not to set his sights too high looking for a career he was determined to prove everybody wrong.

The 19-year-old did just that, he is now studying to become a doctor after teaching himself to hear when he was fifteen with cochlear implants.

Will, from Cardiff, has mild dyspraxia and hearing loss, but he admits to Wales Online being “in denial” about his disabilities when he was growing up.

The boy who was told he would not succeed in life when he was at primary and high school is now studying at the University of St Andrew’s School of Medicine!

“When I was younger I didn’t want to feel disabled or constrained by my disability," Will said.

"I think it can be really damaging for disabled children in general with the idea that generally they don’t achieve as well.

"I wanted to study medicine so that I could help other people in other situations of vulnerability, similarly to how I was helped when I was younger.

“I did have numerous people tell me when I was younger that I shouldn’t aim too high in case I failed due to my disability.

“Thankfully these warnings fell on deaf ears. The belief that other people had in me and the sense that people around me wanted me to succeed gave the confidence to be ambitious.

“I don’t think many deaf children have this confidence that they can do just as well deaf as they could if they weren’t deaf given the right support.”

Will did not come to terms with his hearing loss until he was in his mid-teens.

“By the time I was 13 I thought of myself as being good at football and not disabled," he said.

"When I thought about what it meant to be disabled I thought 'that’s not who I am'. I was a bit in denial about my deafness. That meant I put off having cochlear implants, although I needed them.”

Will was diagnosed with Progressive Bilateral Hearing loss at the age of five after being born with the ability to hear from just one ear.

Fortunately he was not bullied at school, but found it tough trying to stay on track with other people’s conversations.

Eventually he addressed his disability and agreed to have cochlear implants when he was 15 to help with his GCSE exams, but as he explains, there were pros and cons.

“Cochlear implants create an entirely mechanical sound picked up by electrodes wrapped in my cochlears which simulate sound," Will said.

"So I don’t hear in my ears anymore. When I first had them switched on what I heard sounded like pots and pans. I realised it was speech and focused on that. The brain re-trains itself to hear sounds as what they are. At first I could not tell the difference between pitch either but after a few months I could. I hear pretty normally now.”

The stress of having the implants forced Will to drop out of 2 GCSE exams making him feel like “a constant failure”.

However, with the support Dylan Evans from Careers Wales Will passed his A levels which gave him an entry to medical school.

“The thing that made me want to become a doctor was I felt very vulnerable when my hearing was bad." he said.

"After the surgery, which was life changing because I could interact and had so much more energy, I thought I would like to do this for other people.

“I think I am more empathetic than if I had never been deaf. I think it will help me look at things from a patient’s perspective.”

He knows how lucky he is to receive good education and there are thousands of disabled children being left behind at school because teachers do not recognise their full potential.

“When I was younger I didn’t want to feel disabled or constrained by my disability. I think it can be really damaging for disabled children in general with the idea that generally they don’t achieve as well,” Will said.

“I wanted to study medicine so that I could help other people in other situations of vulnerability, similarly to how I was helped when I was younger.

“My hearing completely controlled my life – and I think I’d definitely say that if I hadn’t had the cochlear implants and hadn’t had the support I’d had from my family, teachers and from Dylan, I wouldn’t have been able to apply for medicine.”

Like most students last year Will’s A levels were cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but he has just finished his first year exams at medical school, so things are gradually looking up again.

Careers Wales adviser Dylan Evans said: "While I helped him to focus on his ambitions and how to achieve these, it was Will’s sheer determination to not let his disability define him that pushed him to success.

“I worked closely with Will to look at the options that were suitable for him, in relation to his passions, interests and strengths, as well as his disability."

Debbie Thomas, Head of Policy at the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru, said: “There are around 2,500 deaf children and young people across Wales and they’re showing incredible potential as they finish school. As they approach this critical stage of their lives, it’s vital they get the support, guidance and inspiration they need to aim high and secure the right career for them.

“Our fully accessible helpline is here for deaf children, young people and their families and we would urge any of them to get in touch when they need support.”

Children with hearing loss are more likely to receive a lower grade in English and Maths because of the lack of support from the education system.