My mother was a trained teacher, and with the help of the South Australian Oral School set about teaching me to speak. I was fitted with hearing aids at age 2½, they were about the size of a small walkman! I only benefited from one aid in my right ear, as my left ear was pretty useless. I was blessed with a sharp curve of hearing in the higher frequencies in that right ear, namely those high pitched sounds, which helped enormously with language development. By the time I finished grade 1 I was coping well enough to try mainstream schooling, which I attended from Grade 2 right throughout my schooling years with help from visiting teachers and the like. I eventually completed school in 1984. My hearing loss remained at the same level right throughout my teen and younger adult years.
I went on to go to university and complete a nursing degree, and while it wasn’t perfect by any means, I had enough hearing to get me by, as well as very powerful speech reading abilities. I married and had 5 kids, 1 boy and 4 girls (yeah, I know, nuts!!!) My husband is hearing, but of course like most men suffers terribly from selective deafness. All my children are hearing. I should probably point out that my mother had a nasty dose of rubella while expecting me.
My hearing was on the decline, especially that all important high frequency curve. For most people when they start to lose their hearing it is that high frequency curve that goes first – in my case that was my best side, so to lose that it was very obvious. It wasn’t until March 2004 I noticed a sudden dramatic loss.
I was standing on the beach in Townsville watching my kids train for surf when some RAAF F- 18 jets came roaring past, and my hearing went POOF!!!! Just like that. Those jets are bloody loud, and now I tell my children to cover their ears when they fly by.
After all the usual checks, like making sure it wasn’t my hearing aid, no tumours etc etc, my ENT suggested a visit to Brisbane to chat about a cochlear implant. Obviously I had heard about them, and as it turns out I would most definitely have been eligible had they been available when I was a child, so off we went. Luckily the private health fund came to the party and I was implanted within 3 months of that original sudden loss, meaning I only had 3 months of that awful silence. I did carry on wearing hearing aids even though it was virtually useless as I felt it was good to keep that hearing nerve stimulated. This really paid off as my rehab from the implant was very fast.
I was implanted in my right ear (my “good ear”, as my left ear had never had any sort of natural hearing stimulation) in July 2004 and activated in August – and I have not looked back since. The night I was activated I was able to hold a phone conversation with my son – a small one but a conversation nevertheless! I was able to return to my job in October of that year. I am a registered nurse, so reliable hearing is obviously a must. I have been able to use telephones and mobile phones with ease. I do depend on speech reading in noisy environments, which is not ever a downside!! I have been called upon many times at work to speech read patients with tracheostomies.
While it is not perfect and you do have to remember I was pretty deaf to start with, my hearing is better than it has ever been in my whole life. Probably because I have never experienced perfect hearing, I am pretty easy to please, the implant has been a huge success for me. It is awesome!! I have had to get used to a whole variety of different aids over the years, and the implant was just another new aid. Each aid would sound different to the old one.
I am just about to get the new Freedom processor. I tried it for 15 minutes last year, and the difference was phenomenal, my speech comprehension jumped dramatically in just 15 minutes, and while it was very good with the old esprit, it is even better with the Freedom. I am just amazed at how technology is changing and improving, and I urge anyone considering a change, whether it be from the huge one of actually having the implant to the relatively minor one of updating, to give it a go.
As for bilateral implants, I would not consider it as my left ear has never heard anything at all… the hearing nerve has not ever had any real stimulation, so imagine the shock to my poor old brain…. Especially now that I am 40!! I am very happy and blessed with what I have.