I was born profoundly deaf with hearing parents and two hearing siblings. I made baby noises, smiled but any noise I responded to was just by coincidence. My world was silent. I was diagnosed as being profoundly deaf in 1994 – just a couple of days before my 3rd birthday. I was fitted with two hearing aids. These helped me a bit but my speech didn’t develop much. I started school when I was 6 years old.
My parents heard about the cochlear implant and they thought it might provide more access to useful sound to help with my speech and listening. I got my first implant at age 9 in 2001 and my life has changed for the better ever since. My listening, speech and language has improved. I was able to communicate better with my family, friends and other people. I am so thankful for the wonderful technology to help deaf people hear the real world. I couldn’t have achieved the things I have achieved without it!
In 2010 my non-implanted ear had a further hearing loss. My audiologist advised that if I was to look at getting a second implant, that this would be a good time as my hearing had declined in my non implanted ear and there was almost a 10 year gap from my first implant. So in light of this and also the timing of certain things I felt that a second implant was right for me. This meant a huge cost that had to be funded by my family. I chose a Cochlear Nucleus implant as this was the same brand as my first implant and I was very happy with it. Also I eventually wanted two speech processors that worked the same, used the same remote/equipment etc and that I could eventually get two identical speech processors (which I know have).
I had my second cochlear implant operation in January 2011 and was switched on in February. The switch-on went really well and I had a great first session. At first I couldn’t understand anything with just my new speech processor. After about 15 minutes I was able to recognise the sound of my name. An hour later I could identify the ling sounds and some words. I was identifying and hearing things that my habilitationist thought might take me much more time to be successful with so we were all really pleased and excited at the early results.
My two implants work well together. Although initially I understood less with just using my new implant but I felt that the quality of what I heard was better than with my first implant. It would take time. I liked the sound of my new implant/and N5 speech processor. I think it sounds crisper and more clear than my first implant with the Freedom speech processor. Then I got an N5 for my first implant once it became compatible and I have been really pleased with this choice. I am even turning to the left (new implant) when I hear sounds coming from that side. This means I’m starting to locate sound which is really good.I try to take time each day using just my new speech processor so as I practice listening with the new implant to strengthen my listening skills but what I like best is using both speech processors together. Since my second implant I enjoy listening to music more. I use the telecoil ear hooks and find this enjoyable to listen with. I don’t so much understand all the words (too fast) but the music sounds a lot better than it did before and I can identify some different instruments. Also I can pick up parts of conversation on the radio. Using the phone is hard but I can pick up basic conversation. (Remember though that my diagnosis and getting implants was late).
With two implants the volume of sound is better for me. If I take off one speech processor then I feel that the volume of what I hear is not as loud.When I’m in a crowd the background noise can be annoying but I find it better with two implants than when I had one. I can adjust settings in different situations but I feel that I cope better with two implants.
I have a job which I really enjoy and I love playing table tennis. I represented NZ at the Deaflympics in Taipei in 2009. Earlier this year I competed at the Australian Deaf Games and won two gold medals.
I was diagnosed very late (another story) and my first implant was also quite late so I have had a lot of catching up to do with my peers but the implant/implants have been major turning points in my life. I’m really pleased that I have bilateral implants and even though its better to have implants earlier it was still better late than never for me.