About me


So, I am thinking this might be my last ever post on this blog.

I have reached the point where there is not really much new stuff to report.

I know it has only been 7 months since I got the implant (7 months! is that all???! Can you believe it?) But already, I think I have reached the peak, and plateaued. The implant will not get any better or different now in my right ear. It has reached its’ ‘zenith’.

And what a zenith that is.

I can hear on the phone now. Very well.

Normal pjhone and TTY phone now sit on my desk together.

It's goodbye TTY, hello normal phone since I had the implant. However, I keep the TTY on my desk just in case! Can't shake the feeling of needing it there.

So well in fact, that I have had a normal phone installed on my desk at work alongside my trusty TTY phone that I always used when totally deaf.

So, as you can see – the cochlear implant actually did what I dreamt it would do – it allowed me to reconnect with the world on the phone again.

I can also hear a lot better in group conversations and meetings. Where I used to strain to hear someone at the other end of a meeting table, now I can sit back and hear almost every word. That never ceases to amaze me.

The things I still can’t do all that well are:

  • hearing lyrics to music (I can hear them better than I could with the hearing aids, but they are still a bit unclear at times)
  • watching movies and TV – I still need captions if I am going to really relax and enjoy movies and TV – however, I have been to see Avatar and
    TV captions

    I still need to watch TV with captions. Which is why it's so frustrating when they don't have them!

    District 9 without captions, and understood most of it. I can also understand most TV news without captions.

  • I still tend to lip-read in noisy environments, but I can hear people a lot better in noise.

So, if I am going to leave anyone with a word of advice, or perhaps a message to the deaf community, or maybe parents considering an implant – having been through this all before, having met so many people who’ve had implants, having talked to ENT surgeons, doctors, audiologists and researched online – it would be this:

Kate’s Final View on Cochlear Implants

Disclaimer, this is only my view, no one elses. You might think it’s completely wrong, yo! If you do, then leave a comment, but make sure its a clever, well-thought out comment. I’ll delete stoopid ones!

  • A cochlear implant is not a cure for deafness. It is just like a hearing aid, except it is implanted in your head.
  • It does work wonders for some people, and not so well for others, just like hearing aids. To find out whether you are a good candidate, you need to see your cochlear implant specialist. A normal audiologist just won’t cut it – they just don’t know the real facts and figures.
  • It appears that people who go deaf later in life are probably going to benefit most. I was one of those, losing hearing over ages 11-19 years.
  • It appears that people who are deaf since birth, and get the implant after 5 years old seem to find it harder to adjust – maybe because of crucial years of language development have passed? Not sure.
  • From what I have seen, deaf people who get an implant before the age of 5 years old seem to find their cochlear implant more useful.
  • Even with an implant, you will always be deaf, and something like 20 per cent of the time you will not be using it (i.e. swimming, shower, in bed, when playing messy sports), so it pays to learn sign language and lip-reading to use with your family and friends.

I am glad I got the implant. I am also glad I waited because it was an emotional ride. But I would do it all again, definitely. If I had a deaf child tomorrow, I would give it a cochlear implant before the age of 4, teach it sign language and show it how to lip-read.

There, getting off my soap-box now.

Here are my final test results for the 6 month test at the Sydney Cochlear Implant Centre – please note the disclaimer my audi asked that I include on my hearing aid result!

These are the test results for my Phonak hearing aid in my right ear:

These are the test results for my Phonak hearing aid in my right ear: Note: These hearing aids use “Input Compression” or “AGCI” (Automatic Gain Control for inputs). This feature means that the hearing aids vary the amount of amplification according to the loudness of incoming sounds. Soft sounds are amplified more, while loud sounds are amplified less. The complexityof the aids means that they amplify warble sounds used in aided threshold testing differently to running spech. For this reason, aided thresholds measuired with a non-linear aid can only give a general impression about what is audible for complex sounds such as running speech.

Freedom Cochlear Implant hearing test result

This is the test result for my Freedom Cochlear Implant, in my left ear.

My final speech recognition tests were:

Sentences

  • 100 per cent for both hearing aid and cochlear implant together
  • 100 per cent for just the cochlear implant
  • 66 per cent for just my old hearing aid

Words

  • 84 per cent for just the cochlear implant (I was zero per cent when I used my hearing aid)
  • 20 per cent for just my hearing aid

So, I as you can imagine, I am contemplating getting a second cochlear implant.

But I am going to hold off for a few years, only because the hearing aid balances out the sound of the cochlear implant, and makes everything sound ‘normal’.

So I guess you could say ‘watch this space’ – I may come back with a new blog:

“Kate’s Second And Hopefully Final Cochlear Implant”!

Who knows!

Until then, bye, and thanks for reading!

Kate Locke, signing off!

Kate Locke, signing off! That's it from me - have a great 2010!

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Kate Locke making acceptance speech at Australian Human Rights Awards ceremony in 2009

Do I look a little nervous? Perhaps! Not every day you have to stand up in front of 400 people to talk for 3 minutes.

Can you imagine my face when they told me I had won? I was in shock.

It was the Australian Human Rights Community Award for an Individual.

It’s a big thing for me, because when you do the sort of stuff I am doing, it’s very lonely work – you think no one notices it. You do it, not for recognition, just for trying to change things for the better.

Plus, I’ve barely won ANYTHING in my life. So this is mega epic for me.

You can actually hear the acceptance speech at the awards ceremony which was held at the Sheraton on Park in Sydney on 10 December 2009.

For all my deaf friends, I have asked them to please put up a transcript for hearing impaired people! And lo and behold, mine is the ONLY one that comes with a transcript. HAHA.

Click on the link below to hear the audio of Human Rights awards speech:

I turned 30 years old this week.

A real milestone for me.

It has caused me to reflect back on my life over the past few years …

I was thinking about how this blog has been exceptionally positive. When I started it in June last year, I actually thought it might be quite sad in tone, or dramatic. It has surprised me how very positive everything has been, how positive I have felt.

I had a very hard time when I was a teenager, and in my early 20s. Many people don’t realise just how difficult deafness can be. It is a hidden disability, an isolating disability, because it is one of communication.

I was in bed a few minutes ago, trying to sleep, but turning all my life events over in my head, thinking about the journey that has brought me here. It’s 4.45am now, and as always I think the best way to cure insomnia is to get up and write about what’s keeping me up! Once I get it out, I’ll sleep well again.

Sometimes I just can’t believe that I considered suicide.

When I was 21, all the difficulties associated with my deafness came to a head, and I decided to kill myself.

I had struggled with university. I didn’t know any other people who were deaf, and I didn’t identify with any deaf people. No one understood what I had been going through. I was too anxious and afraid to tell people how difficult it was.

At that point, closed captioning in Australia wasn’t that widespread, so I was cut off from even little things like watching TV, or hiring VHS’s or going to the cinema. I remember very clearly coming out of a cinema with all my girlfriends, and realising I hadn’t understood most of the movie, and so I couldn’t join in with their conversation afterwards. It was a devastating feeling sitting quietly trying to follow the conversation around me, and not knowing what they were talking about.

I couldn’t afford decent hearing aids. They are so expensive, and being a university student at the time meant I had very little money.

Another issue was uni, where group work and lectures and tutorials were so hard for me to deal with, because I was struggling to hear what was going on. Going into uni every day was stressful like you wouldn’t believe. I remember one tutorial where I was trying my hardest to lip-read everyone – the lecturer, and the students as they made comments. Usually I was silent in these classes, as I wasnt quite sure who was saying what. But one day I really thought I had a relevent and interesting comment to make about a topic we were discussing. So I put my hand up, said my bit, and there was silence. The lecturer looked at me in a funny way, and said: “I just said that.”

I was so embarrassed. I never made another comment or participated in that class again.

These are the awful parts of deafness. It’s a lonely thing to deal with. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

It got to the point where I was sure I was going to be dependent on my family for the rest of my life. I mean how could I get any well-paying job being as deaf as I was? How would I ever meet a partner? I didn’t feel like I could relax even in the presence of friends because I was always struggling to hear them, so life was just one big constant source of stress.

I was only happy when alone.

The worst thing was, I knew life hadn’t even really begun. I was 21! I remember thinking: “This is not even the beginning. Life is just going to get harder.”

The way I felt, life was already unbearable… And it was about to get a lot harder.

The night I considered suicide, I remember so clearly.

I’d had a particularly bad night at uni, had a fight with my mum, had almost missed the bus home, had a terrible, awkward conversation with a friend of mine – it was late at night, and as I walked through the darkened Sydney streets towards my house, I said to myself: “That is it. I can’t take it anymore.”

I made the decision then and there that I would kill myself, and that it needed to be that night.

The most enduring memory of that moment is how time suddenly stood still. All I can remember was the sense of calm that came over me. My breathing, my footsteps on the pavement, the bright clear moon high above me, the darkened, damp city streets, the street lights. Everything became acutely clear and still. There was a heavy, calm feeling in my chest, the first time that I had ever felt the jittery feeling leaving my heart and stomach.

That was what frightened me the most. How very calm I was. I was so detached, so rational. It was like a relief.

I realised that this was the biggest decision I had ever made in my life, and there was some strange comfort in having taken control back in my life – I started rationally thinking it through. What were the pros and cons of dying. How would I do it. Was there anything that I thought might improve to stop me from doing it.

I walked and walked the dark streets, and thought long and hard.

As I went through the pros and cons, the thing that caused me to pause was that I didn’t know what happened after death, and therefore, I couldn’t prove that what I was experiencing now would end when I died. If it didn’t end, would I be doomed to be stuck in this eternal moment?

I also knew my mum would be devastated.

Finally I came to a decision. It was a feeling I wanted to end, not my life per se. So I said to myself: “No. Death is not the answer. I will not do it. I will find another way to end this feeling. ”

I walked all the way back to the apartment I shared with my mum, in that calm, still, transcendent state. I realised how close I had come. I walked upstairs, sat down at my desk, wrote my mum a letter telling her what I’d planned on doing, and how I had decided not too, but that I would need help. I then went to bed.

I slept, but it wasn’t like any sleep I have had before. I closed my eyes, and lay in one position all night, neatly under the covers, unmoving until the sun came up. It seemed the night was over in a few seconds. I opened my eyes to find my mum standing over me, looking down at me with stillness in her eyes, holding the letter.

She didn’t look upset or anything. And I remember her saying, I will help you. And I got up, we went and had a cup of tea in the kitchen, and talked. And I knew then that everything was going to be alright.

So it’s been four and a half months now since I got the cochlear implant in my right ear.

I haven’t written an update in a while, because I haven’t felt like there is anything interesting to report!

But I guess what I think of as being boring, my family and friends might find interesting.

So, here we go.

Since I last wrote, I am hearing so much better than before – in fact, my last sentence and word perception test had these results:

  • sentences – 100 per cent
  • words – 87 per cent
  • sentences in noise – 95 per cent

So… yes. It is amazing. I am still profoundly deaf when I take off my cochlear implant and hearing aid, but now I can actually hear stuff when I have them on.

I’ve been having conversations with Ben without facing him, so it looks like I can definitely hear some people without lip-reading.

I have also been still using the web captel trial put on by ACE.  This means I’ve been able to practice using the telephone calling normally, and still listen and hear what people are saying.

And I am pleased to say that I can hear most of what people say on the phone now, without captions. Amazing. People have no idea that they are speaking to a deaf person on the phone.

When I call Ben or mum, I don’t use captions at all. Ben always whines now when I call – “Why do you have to call me all the time now!?” HAHA! He liked it better when I just texted. Now I am calling up to say things like: ” I am walking down the street! What do you think of that! I am passing a garbage bin. What are you doing? Look, a bird!”

And as for other news, I have been elected to the board of ACCAN, which is the Australian Communication Consumer Action Network – this will mean that I can really make it known what deaf people, or those with other disabilities will need in order to stay connected in Australia. For example, people don’t realise that for the Web CapTel trial to work, it is important that you have a stable internet connection that doesn’t drop out. If it drops out you may be logged out or your captions will stop coming through and you will have to reconnect. Imagine having to do that during an important phone call!

I’ve also been nominated and shortlisted for a 2009 Australian Human Rights Community Award for work with deafness and disability in Australia. WOWSER! Doubt I will win (you should see the actual shortlist! amazing people), but it’s still a hugely great honour to be shortlisted!

As for other stuff happening with the cochlear implant – I was over at my friend Georgia’s house the other week, having an ‘infrared sauna’. She runs a natural therapies studio. She gave me a pamphlet to read in the sauna so I could see all the good stuff it was doing. At the very back in tiny letters it said: “Do not use this sauna if you have an implant i.e. pace maker or silicon.”

And I was like “WHAAAAAAAAT!!!!!??” slapped my hand over my ear, and jumped out – thought maybe my head was going to explode! I mean, I didnt have the external bit on, but I thought maybe it might melt my brain, make it come out my ears, and turn me into a zombie.

It didn’t however (that might have been kind of cool), and I checked with Cochlear Ltd later – they said that according to their information from engineers etc, infrared shouldn’t affect cochlear implants (nor should any other sauna – good to know!).

Yay for cochlear implants. Such a new invention, it’s like being the first person to walk on the moon or something. You just don’t know what might happen when you do stuff that is considered normal! like brains exploding from saunas. Awesome.

Back in August, I attended the Deafness Forum of Australia’s captioning awards.

It was a really exciting event – I had no idea how big, and impressively run it was. John Howard has recently become the Deafness Forum’s ambassador, so he was there at the dinner. That was a bonus.

I have some great photos below. I actually won an award. It was a total surprise – it was the Roma Wood Community Award for dedication to improving captioning and media access across DVDs, cinemas, online videos and TV in Australia.

I am very honoured to get that.

And the other reason it’s nice to win it – I tell you what – I have been making noise about the lack of captioning for so long, and it is quite depressing how little movement there is in relation to it.

It’s truly heart breaking sometimes to see how uninterested big companies are about whether or not a person with a disability can access their services.

Can you imagine what it is like to not be able to do something as simple as watch TV? When a TV station doesn’t caption its programs, that it what happens for people with a hearing loss.

It is worse for blind people – audio description is more expensive, and harder to get on different types of media.

Yes, it’s distressing to have a hearing or vision impairment! You can get very cut off from normal every day things that people take for granted.

So anyway, it was a nice change to have all the industry types in one big room, all in unanimous support of accessibility of media for deaf and hearing impaired people. (Note: A noticable absence was the ABC  – every other TV station had someone there, but the ABC declined to send anyone. That was a bit of a shock to me! I’ve always thought the ABC was the best in this respect. Obviously not.)

Check out the photos below:

Telling him about the implant: "That's right, Mr Howard, they DRILL INTO YOUR HEAD!!"

Telling him about the implant: "That's right, Mr Howard, they DRILL INTO YOUR HEAD!!"

Telling John Howard about the cochlear implant with Maureen Shelley, Daily Telegraph Journalist.

Me: "Pfft, it doesn't hurt a bit!" Mr Howard: "Riiight." (*Maureen wimpers, wipes eyes!*)

 

Another one of me telling in great detail how gory the operation was. Just kidding! We all know my surgeon, Prof da Cruz, iz da man.

Me: "Why don't you get one, Mr Howard".... Him: "Are you kidding me!!!??" (Just joking!)

Talking to all the cinema, TV, and DVD distributors after winning the community award: "You've all got to caption everything, or you're in biiiiiig trouble!"

Talking to all the cinema, TV, and DVD distributors after winning the community award: "You've all got to caption everything, or you're in biiiiiig trouble!"

Standing with Hugh and Andrew from Printacall - they sponsored the community award - thanks so much guys, you made my night.

Standing with Hugh and Andrew from Printacall - they sponsored the community award - thanks so much guys, you made my night.

Ok, now this is amazing.

I have had my Week 8 mapping session with Monica at the Sydney Cochlear Implant Centre, and afterwards, she tested my hearing … and I did incredibly well.

Monica suggested I mention on this blog that my result is a bit out of the ordinary – the average word perception is 30 per cent a year after an implant.

The reason to mention that is so as not to give a cochlear implant an inflated promotion! Anyone out there considering getting one – make sure you understand that everyone is different, and different people achieve different results at different times.

(How’s that for a disclaimer, huh?)

Anyway, results from this weeks mapping:

  • Sentences with just implant – 100% (before implant – 13%)
  • Sentences in noise with both hearing aid and implant – 95% (before implant – 45-50%)
  • Single words by themselves with just implant – 72% (before implant – 0%)

This is just … unbelievable.

And the most difficult part was done with just my cochlear implant, not even using my hearing aid ear.

I am flabbergasted for want of better words…

I am going to now:

  1. cry a bit
  2. then laugh
  3. then make myself a cup of tea
  4. then wait impatiently for Ben to come home from work so I can tell him
  5. then maybe get too excited, and try and call my mum on the phone
  6. then I am going to run around the house grinning like a mad-man and jump on the bed. Oh wait. Maybe I will do that now.

In fact, I am going to do them all at once.

Tomorrow at 11.30am I get switched-on.

I have been waiting for this moment, not just since the surgery 3 weeks ago, but for about 10 years.

I first knew I was a candidate for a cochlear implant when I was about 17 or 18 years old. I always thought to myself  “one day I will get it, but not now”. It was too scary a thought back then.

As the years progressed, and my hearing worsened, I always thought, “if worst comes to worst, and it gets unbearable, I can get an implant”. It was always this distant, frightening aspect of the future – a moment when my hearing loss would get the better of me, and I would ‘succumb’.

In fact, it hasn’t really been like that. I probably could have continued on the way I have been – with hearing aids doing very little! Because I lip-read, I can ‘get by’. But who wants to spent their lives just ‘getting by’!?

Some people might say, why did you wait so long?

Well, if you were the one talking to all the doctors and audiologists about the pros and cons, you would wait too! It is not simple. It is not easy. It requires a lot of planning, there are so many potential risks, you need to have a supportive network of people around you, and unless you have private health insurance like I did, it costs a hell of a lot. It also requires a certain amount of faith in yourself, because it’s also a lot about the way you think that affects the success of the implant.

So, you can see why tomorrow is so huge for me.

All the different people I have spoken to that have implants have all had such amazing and different experiences.

I think the 4 main hopes I have for my cochlear implant would be:

  1. I’d love to be able to hear and understand the voices of my little nieces and nephew. They are all under the age of 5, and they are so hard for me to hear. I want to hear when they ask me stuff, and make comments on things
  2. I want to be able to play the piano again – I had to stop when I was 18 because I couldn’t hear the differences between the notes anymore. That was devastating, so I stopped playing. I’d be so happy if I could play again.
  3. I ‘d love to be able to hear the voices on the radio when I’m in the car, and hear the lyrics to my favourite music. Maybe even watch a movie at the cinema.
  4. And most of all, I’d like to be able to call my mum, and tell her I love her, without having to have someone standing next to me telling me what she’s saying.

If anyone of these things was made possible by an implant, then I will be happy.

But either way, I think that tomorrow will be up there with the other big life moments I’ve had that get mentally added to  “The Grand and Unabridged Compendium of the Historical Moments of Kate Locke’s Life”.

2009’s entry will say something like “Cochlear implant happened, and it was good/bad/awesome/stupid/changed my life/ruined my life/made me grow wings/caused nuclear war/saved the planet (select correct corresponding descriptive term).”

Who knows what the future will bring?

Let’s hope not nuclear war!

To my family in New Zealand, South America, Brisbane and Melbourne – I will post all about the switch on tomorrow night! Wish me luck! And maybe one day I might even be able to call you on the phone.

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