This is an interesting one.

Since my last post, I have been trying the phone more and more, and find that I can’t always hear what people are saying really clearly. No matter what program on the implant I use, it’s not always clear. Some days I can hear, other days I can’t. Some people I can hear, other people I can’t. All very inconsistent.

But I have discovered something really cool.

The first ever captioned telephony trial is taking place in Australia right now, it started last week, and 100 people from around Australia were selected to take part after registering.

I am one of them, and I have taken part in the ‘Web Captel’ trial a couple of times in the last couple of days.

Using webcaptel is so much better than the old TTY phone system. You can hear and speak normally with the person on the other end, and read what they say as captions on your computer screen. Awesome.

Using webcaptel is so much better than the old TTY phone system. You can hear and speak normally with the person on the other end, and read what they say as captions on your computer screen. Awesome.

Basically, the way it works is you must have a computer in front of you connected to the internet, and a telephone, either mobile or landline.

I’ll tell you how I called my bank the other day:

I visted the website url they gave me, and logged in (you must have a username and password).

Then I simply typed in the phone number of the phone that was sitting next to me, and then the phone number of the bank I wanted to call.

Pressed enter…

Suddenly, my phone rang.

I picked it up – there was no one at the other end, but all of a sudden, the website page I had open popped up a text pane, and the relay officer in Brisbane started typing: “Calling number as requested… Ringing…”, and then, listening to my phone, I could hear the ringing sounds at the other end.

“Hello?” I said uncertainly.

“Hello, this is the bank, how can we help today?”

And the words of the other person suddenly came up on the screen in front of me as I listened to her – word for word.

I squealed with delight!

“I want help with my homeloan please! Eeeeeee!”

“Yes sure… Account number please, and your [brsghsghgh behjhjee and jsjkdksj].”

Suddenly I had missed something she said, so I waited half a second, and it soon appeared on my computer:

Yes sure, account number please, and your password and name as it appears on the account.

Dang! This thing, it worked! I gave her the answer, and then I just couldn’t contain myself:

“Miss, this is the coolest thing ever, did you know you are talking to a profoundly deaf person, and everything you are saying is appearing in front of me in text on my computer? It’s called WebCaptel and it is soooo cool!”

She said, “Um… what? webcaptel? I’m on your computer? uh… that’s .. ” then she laughed, “that’s great! … yes, wonderful! …”

And I could hear the smile in her voice. You can’t hear smiles with the normal Tele-Text Typewriter phones that the deaf use (the ones I normally use…) because you can’t hear anything, it’s only text you read, and it’s like a two-way radio.

So this new Web Captel service, I predict, will completely change the way deaf people use the telephone, and therefore communicate.

It’s also brilliant for practicing listening with my cochlear implant.

If you are interested in reading more about captioned telephony in Australia, visit the ACE website, or have a read of the ACE Web Captel user guide.

Today it feels good to be deaf in 2009.


OK, now for our weekly update on what I can hear now! Yaaaay.

Today I made a phone call to someone I didn’t know.

That’s a big thing, because it can be kind of hard hearing the voice of an unfamiliar person on the phone.

I have been talking to Ben and mum on the phone heaps now since the implant (wow!) and unfortunately, I have the phone bills to prove it.

So, today, I decided to take the leap, and try and call someone I didnt know.

Perfect moment came up when I realised that it was tax-time.

Considering I got audited last year by the tax department because I tried claiming my hearing aids and hearing aid batteries as work expenses, I decided I should probably get someone official to do it this time, just in case.

So, I called the local tax accountants near my work.

I had to prepare myself mentally. Making a phone call like this can freak me out!

So, I got organised, went into the ‘Quiet Room’ at my office, took a few crazy breaths, felt ridiculous, and then dialled. A woman answered:

“Hello? ”

Clear as a bell. I wondered briefly if I should tell her that she was talking to a profoundly deaf person. But no – I decided it would freak her out… Like walking up to someone, in full view, and shouting “I am invisible!”

And besides! I could understand what she was saying. And so we had a normal phone conversation.

It was a little bit unclear in parts – I mean, she was talking normally, not clear and slower than normal, like my family knows how to speak to me – she had no idea she was talking to a profoundly deaf robot person!

So, I was able to talk to her, book an appointment, and also check what documents I needed to bring. That was pretty awesome. But also bizarre.

I mean, who hangs up the phone after talking to their local tax accountant all flushed and excited!? Geez, I hope I never get used to using the phone if it’s this fun to use each time. A bit nerve wracking, but totally worth it.

Another cool experience was the gym.

Now, anyone with a significant hearing loss like mine knows that when you go to a gym class, like say, pilates or yoga (as I am wont to d0), that you need to position yourself in such a way that people are surrounding you – so you can copy people from all angles as you do your moves.

Because, obviously, when you are deaf you can’t hear a word the instructor is saying, and you can’t always see them from your contorted positions!

After years of yoga classes, I have become a master of copying moves of everyone around me without them knowing, and I can even can pre-determine what sort of move a person is about to make, just by the way they are breathing. I try not to look like I am watching my fellow classmates too intently, because I guess it would freak anyone out if they realised they were being stared at doing the ‘Downward Dog’.

Anyway, so I was at one of my regular classes, and I felt particularly rested and relaxed during the class for some reason. I hadn’t realised it, but I was actually hearing the instructor saying: “Breathe in. Breathe out, and hold for 4, 3, 2, 1… And relax…”

I couldn’t believe it.

I sat bolt up-right in the class while everyone else was lying down crouched in some bizarre lotus position, heads down, arses up, and arms bent… I double-checked. Yep. The instructor had her head bent down too, still speaking, and I was hearing every word of it.  

I lay back down in my contorted position, and just grinned like a madman.

Yoga gym junkie gibberish never sounded so good.

This is an important shout-out to all my Australian readers with a hearing loss.

The Australian Federal Government has launched a full Senate Inquiry into deafness!

Is there anything about having a hearing loss or being deaf that frustrates you?

  • Have you ever felt annoyed at the cost of buying – and maintaining – hearing aids and cochlear implants?
  • Have you ever been upset by the low standard of services of an audiologist?
  • Ever wished you could stay with Australian Hearing after you were 21 years old?

The Australian Federal Government want to hear from EVERYONE in Australia about what issues they face when they have to deal with a hearing loss.

They are planning on using your input to change the way hearing health is dealt with in Australia.

It is so important that you email them to let them know what it is like for YOU personally.

All you have to do is send a short email to by 9 October 2009, letting them know what frustrates you most about your hearing loss in Australia, and what you would like to change.

I have done one already. If you need help in knowing what to write, have a look here.

This is your chance to finally let your Government know how difficult it can be living with a hearing loss in a hearing world.

Don’t miss this chance.

30 September 2009

Re: Inquiry into Hearing Health in Australia

To the Community Affairs References Committee (

I would like to make a submission to the Hearing Health Inquiry.

I am a deaf young professional living and working in Australia.

The current Australian hearing health system is antiquated and not working well at all – it makes being deaf in Australia very difficult and expensive.

For example:

  • my hearing loss was first discovered at age 11, and I was given hearing aids without any sort of rehabilitation or support. it took me ages to get used to them and to wear them. It was a traumatising experience as a child. I didnt wear the ones I was given at 13 until I was 18, because I hadnt been given adequate support in understanding how to use them
  • When I did start wearing them, I received free hearing aids and batteries through Australian Hearing which was fantastic, and really helped.
  • then suddenly at the age of 21, just when I was unemployed and studying full time at university, I was told I could no longer get any services through Australian Hearing
  • I had to find a private audiologist, and many that I had didnt understand my hearing loss well enough, and I bought hearing aids from each of them, when one would have been enough. Each hearing aid is about $3,500 to $4,000. I was also convinced to buy expensive additional gadgets  for up to $1,500, which I have never used, because it was not correct for my hearing loss.
  • One of my hearing aids broke and I had to buy a new one, as it was not covered under private health insurance
  • I had to get a personal loan to pay for it, and then I had to go on Centrelink payments as well, because I had trouble paying my rent.
  • I have just received my first cochlear implant. I had to take out private health insurance in order to get this over 3 years at $90 per month. None of my hearing friends pay anywhere near this amount for private health insurance.
  • I had to take out special cochlear implant insurance at $300 per year to cover my cochlear implant, when someone who has an ipod can get that covered with their home and contents insurance. I have tried to get my cochlear implant covered under home and contents, and all the big insurers refuse to cover them.
  • I’ve had to buy a special TTY phone and special Telstra HipTop mobile phone in order to communicate with people, as these are the only two I can use being a deaf person.
  • Audiologists charge huge amounts for ear moulds when you don’t need them (up to $250), and for repairs (up to $500), and for batteries (they cost me $300 a year).
  • I have been to see the Minister for Ageing about these issues, but as hearing health is under Ageing, it’s not the main part of the portfolio. Hearing health gets lost in Ageing. It needs to be put over into Health.
  • Hearing health is not an ageing issue, I am only 29 years old, it is a health issue. Many of my deaf friends are under 30 years old.

There is an essential inequity as to how hearing health is perceived as compared to other health issues, even though hearing loss is one of the most prevalent health issues in Australia.

According to the Access Economics Report, one in six Australians has some form of hearing impairment, and this is projected to increase to one in four by 2050 (from Access Economics (2006) Listen Hear – The Economic Impact and Cost of hearing loss in Australia).

I would like to see the following changes made to the way hearing health is dealt with in Australia:

  1. Hearing health should be moved out from under the Federal government Ageing portfolio, and placed under the Federal Government Health portfolio, alongside eye health. It currently does not receive the attention it deserves under the Ageing portfolio.
  2. Subsidised government services should be offered via ‘Australian Hearing’ to people between the ages of 21 and 65 if they are on a low income, unemployed, full time students, or part time students. In Australia there is currently no help for these people in affording hearing aids, implants and other hearing health services.
  3. Insurance companies should cover hearing aids and cochlear implants if they are lost or broken. Currently most insurers will cover silly things like iPods, but not a cochlear implant processor, which is $8,000 to replace, and vital for many to be able to hear.
  4. Former child clients of Australian Hearing who are not unemployed, students, or on low incomes should not be suddenly cut off from services of Australian Hearing. They should be able to pay for services to stay on at Australian Hearing with their audiologist.
  5. All hearing aids, cochlear implants and other hearing health aides should be able to be claimed as a tax deduction once someone starts work. Currently you can’t claim expensive hearing aids as a tax deduction.

Thanks for accepting my submission.


Kate Locke

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.

I just read a comment from a lovely lady I met in Canberra for the Deafness Summit last year – she lives in Melbourne and got a cochlear implant I think either early this year or late last year.

Anyway, here is part of her comment, and I found it really struck me as being one of the unintended benefits of a cochlear implant when it works really well:

….I notice that I am much more likely to speak to strangers- in the past I avoided having chance conversations with people I didnt know. I really enjoy this – it has been an unexpected benefit.

This is something that I have come to notice with my cochlear implant.

Where I used to avoid looking at people, even in the lift at work, or on the street, or on the bus … now … I actually see people in a different light, and am much more open, and feeling like I am looking around for a random conversation! It is GREAT. People with normal hearing might not understand that feeling of imprisonment where you can’t really talk to the people around you.

On the bus the other night, everyone was sitting quietly as they made their way home, and behind me, a woman’s mobile phone rang. She started talking on the phone, not loudly, but unbelievably, I could actually hear what she was  saying.

I sat there, this huge grin spreading over my face, as I listened to the voice behind me – it was the first conversation I had ever ‘overheard’, and it was wonderful. Everyone on the bus sat there looking glum as they were ‘forced’ to listen to her ‘boring’ conversation…

But what they don’t realise is that, no matter how boring, these snippets give you a tiny window into someone else’s life! Hell, I know she was discussing the fact that her friend Brian couldn’t make Pub Trivia on Thursday night because he was working too hard in a new job…. but geez …. when you can hear stuff like that, it’s like people around you become more like …. people  … and not strangers.

So, I kind of half swivelled my head towards her and commented: “I reckon you should tell Brian life is too short, he should go to Trivia, they won’t fire him for leaving on time.”

There was dead silence.

People around me on the  turned their heads, surprised that I had spoken.

I heard a giggle.

Then some people smiled.

I turned back grinning hugely.

Then behind me she mumbled into the phone: “Maybe … I’ll tell Brian he should come….”

I felt like saying to everyone: “You people can HEAR!!!! You should all be talking and having conversations with the strangers next to you everywhere!!! Don’t take it for granted! Talk people!!! Talk!!!”

Maybe everyone needs a good bout of deafness to get their humanity working again.