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!

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 community.affairs.sen@aph.gov.au 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.

https://katelocke.wordpress.com/2009/10/01/submission-australian-senate-inquiry-hearing-health/

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 (community.affairs.sen@aph.gov.au):

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.

Sincerely,

Kate Locke

Before I start on telling you what I am hearing now, I want to just waffle on about something else for a second!

The best thing about this blog for me…

The very best thing about this blog for me has been the parents from around the world that have either emailed me or left comments on my posts, telling me how this blog has enabled them to understand a bit more what it is like for their own hearing impaired baby or toddler – and maybe allows them to kind of ‘experience’ what it must be like as a kid to have a cochlear implant.

Because you can’t really ask a 9 month old baby, “How does it feel?” or “What exactly are you hearing?”

Imagine:

Baby: “Well Mum? Your voice really sounds sooooo stoopid when you coo to me and talk in ‘mumsy gibberish’. Stop that, I aint a baby! Oh, hang on … I AM a baby. Whatever.”

The comment that really struck me was one from Iman (at the end of my previous post). It really made me feel like awwwww! I mean, imagine being a mum to a baby with an implant – it is, in some ways, kind of heart rending, you know, like as a mother, you just want to be able to know and understand how your child is feeling – so I felt really good that maybe that’s what my blog was doing – giving a tiny little voice to babies out there that have cochlear implants – see Iman’s comment below:

i gave birth to my third child, 19 months ago and he was born hearing impaired, with profound hearing loss. he has had the implant for a year now and he is doing really good but he has difficulty sleeping at night, he will sit in his bed for hours during the night awake and talking to himself and i never understood why. when reading your blog about how you would still hear noises even when the processor was off, it made sense. i would love to know how it gets down the track.
Iman

So that was totally mega cool, and really made my day.

As for an update on what I am hearing now, see below:

8 weeks since surgery, 4 weeks since switch on … What can I hear now?

Well, it is amazing – it sounds much more natural now.

Audio book

On the plane home from Queensland on Sunday night, I plugged myself (using the Cochlear Personal Audio cable) into Ben’s iRiver ipod thing.

He had to show me how to use it – I am so totally web savvy and tech savvy, but when it comes to things that only produce sound, I have never used them!

And I listened to my audio book that Ben had downloaded for me.

I could hear it so clearly, even with the roar of the jet engines in the background. I was truly amazed. I flipped through the book, kept finding the pages I was up to, and then decided it was too easy following along with the book.

And I leant back, and listened to the story with my eyes closed!  *sigh*

Conversations without lipreading!

At home last night while cooking dinner, Ben and I had a full conversation without me looking at him. As we were preparing stuff in the kitchen, he was telling me the synopsis of this new series on TV called “The Last Enemy”, and it had some weird futuristic bizarre plot-line involving biotechnological diseases and government espionage – the usual.

The only reason I realised that I was listening to him without looking at him was because Ben stopped talking mid-sentence, and said in his best hurt voice: “Well, if you’re not interested, I’ll stop telling you!”

And I looked up, and said “I AM listening!” And we both realised that because I wasn’t facing him, he thought I couldn’t hear him!!!!!

We both had these huge grins on our faces!

So the rest of the conversation, Ben said to me “You have to say ‘yes? yes?’ after each sentence so I feel like you can hear what I am saying!”

It was hilarious.

Our conversation was tainted by those typical broad Aussie accents where everything ends in a question:

Ben: “So there’s this disease outbreak that was hidden by the Government?”
Kate: “Yes?”
Ben: “And the brother of the bio-terrorist scientist gets blown up by a land mine?”
Kate: “Yes?”
Ben: “but then he comes back from the dead, because he didn’t really die, he just faked his death?
Kate: “Yes?”

It might not sound like it, but to me it was a wonderfully satisfying conversation!

I went to the Cinema!

Oh, and I went to a movie at the cinema for the first time since I was about 24 years old – a movie without subtitles I mean.

So, it’s been 6 years since I have seen a normal movie at the cinema.

I was with my three girlfriends, we were having a girls weekend at the Gold Coast, and were killing time at Pacific Fair before our flight left.

And we decided to see ‘District 9’, (I don’t know WHAT we were thinking – it’s about Aliens and things getting blown up).

I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to hear much, but I was amazed that I managed to get maybe 75 per cent of the movie! There were lots of moments when people shouted something as they were blown up, or mutilated, or maybe there was a voice-over during a shoot-out – these ones I had trouble hearing – but the majority of it I could hear!

When we came out of the cinema, I was so excited, and said to the girls: “Man, I could hear almost everything, I understood it all! This is great! The only thing I didn’t get was – why was the guy smiling when was blowing up the alien’s babies? I must’ve missed something there.”

And they were like: “Ah – we didn’t get that either. No idea!”

HAHA!

So there you go.

This scientific invention, the cochlear implant, is ACTUALLY WORKING!!!!

At work today, I tried out one of the accessories that comes with the cochlear implant – the personal audio cable.

This is the cable that comes with the processor - it is amazing because it means that the sound goes direct into your cochlear implant, and you can hear it really clearly.

This is the cable that comes with the processor - it is amazing because it means that the sound goes direct into your cochlear implant, and you can hear it really clearly.

You plug it into your laptop, ipod, computer, or TV – anything with headphone jack basically – and the sound goes direct into your cochlear implant.

I wanted to try and see if I could hear the videos that I work with at work – I upload lots, because I am an Online Content Manager – and usually I get someone else to listen to them if the content is important.

Well, today … I plugged in the cable, switched it on, and pressed play.

And I could hear it.

I could hear AND understand almost every word that was said. And the amazing thing was, I was only using the implanted ear, not my other ear with the hearing aid.

I was listening with only one ear, and for the first time in a long time, I was understanding a video without captions.

I had a little cry over my keyboard at my desk. This is the first time the cochlear implant has actually moved me to tears.

For me, the cochlear implant is … just so good …  such an improvement on my old hearing … and that makes me feel a bizarre mix of sad and happy. Happy because of what has opened up for me … and sad for my previous self that struggled for so long, and resigned herself to being left out of certain things.

So, I just had a good cry while I listened to our CEO discuss financial figures for the year and how important insurance is for small businesses in the face of climate change.

*sigh*

Who would’ve thought such a boring topic could elicit such a response.

Now, most people who know me, know I love cats. I was intrigued when I came across this photo on the web, which I didn’t really believe was true. Until my audiologist told me that apparently it IS true! This is how scientist have been studying the effects of cochlear implants on deafness!

How cool is this! Implanted cat 5 months after surgery. The cat wears the device 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.   These cats are born deaf and offer an excellent model for studying congenital deafness. With the implant, cats will come when called and demonstrate behaviorally that they can hear.

Cat: "One more photo of me in this state, and you die, man." Just kidding! How cool is this! I have to admit, it's my new dream pet! Implanted cat 5 months after surgery. The cat wears the device 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. These cats are born deaf and offer an excellent model for studying congenital deafness. With the implant, cats will come when called and demonstrate behaviorally that they can hear.

After 3 months of using the cochlear implant, the synapses of auditory nerve fibers in these implanted cats were compared to those of normal hearing cats and congenitally deaf cats of the same age.   They discovered that cochlear implants “rescued” the synapses of the deaf cats.

Check out the website for more details on this:  Endbulbs, Activity, and Cochlear Implants

I am sure many people would call this cruel; but hey, I’ve got an implant, and I love it! So, I find it fascinating – but geez, that poor cat doesn’t look too happy in the photo, huh?

But it has inspired me!

I am not alone!

There are cats out there that are like me too! haha!

I almost feel like getting a deaf kitten from the RSPCA, taking it to Professor Da Cruz, and pleading: “Work your magic, Melville!! My cat wants to hear again!”

And then, post surgery,  the kitten and I will prance off into the sunset, happily talking to each other in robotic meows, and comparing battery shelf-life.

Yep, that’s what it’s come to now – I am day dreaming about having a ‘matching’ pet  (like people who get haircuts to match their pets!). Instead of B1 and B2, it will be Cochlear Kate, and Cochlear Cat. I’ll get it a leash too, so I can walk it! Awesome. We can share processors. So many possibilities!

Today it took me an hour to walk to work instead of the normal 40 minutes, because as I walked, I had to keep stopping to work out what the hell it was that I was hearing!

I had taken my hearing aid out, and just had the implant on – and suddenly, as I walked up my empty street, I thought I heard laughing, and then someone screaming. I stood in the middle of Harrison Street in quiet little Cremorne, thinking “It either sounds like a serial killer after his morning coffee, or maybe a Kookaburra – but we don’t really get Kookaburra’s in Cremorne”, and then I looked up – and there it was.

No, not a serial killer, a Kookaburra!

I could hear it! A kookaburra sitting waaaaaaay up on a TV antenna on someone’s house! And the ‘screaming’ was about 6 other little Indian Myna birds attacking it!!! I am not sure I would have heard that with just the hearing aid. So it was pretty cool.

At work, everyone sounds very robotic, but I think that I can hear my boss Penny better! She is certainly typing loudly. HAHA!

My work colleagues sound like 'The Daleks' from Doctor Who! Cool!

My work colleagues sound like 'The Daleks' from Doctor Who. Poor things, I won't tell them, but I prefer them sounding like that. (Ah. They might read this. Well - you guys sound delightful. Please don't exterminate me.)

And then, our brand manager has a booming voice, I didn’t realise. When he started talking, I paused my typing thinking “The head of the Daleks! I can hear the Head of the Daleks!!” And then suddenly, it was like an army of Daleks. But when I checked it out – realised it was just Dean, Penny and Sylvia talking. I think they sound better like that.

I called out t o everyone:  “Hey cool! Dean sounds like a Dalek!”, and I wasn’t looking at him, but I very clearly heard him say, over the partition: “Exterrrrminate! Exterrrrrrminate!”

Though I couldn’t understand what he was saying without lip-reading once he went back to normal talking, so I might have to ask him to always talk like a Dalek when we discuss things. Like monotone: “Kaaaaaaaate! Pleeeeeeeease doooooo thiiissssssssss jobbbbbbb forrrrrrr meeeeeeeee!”

Other cool things are the pings of the lift. I didn’t realise that the lift makes a very quiet ‘ping’ as it goes past each floor up to Level 11. Awesome. I love the lift.

I have to say, I am really happy I did this. But I am also so glad I waited until now. Because as great as I feel about it, it is still hard – walking around and not quite knowing what all the sounds are – voices are still not very clear, but with the hearing aid as well, I think every now and then they are clearer than I have heard them in a long time. Yippee!

And if you are interested, you can read the official media release from the State Minister for Health’s office about the extra funding allocated to the Sydney Cochlear Implant Centre:

Cochlear Implant funding, 22 July 2009

Love the spelling mistake, and anecdotal error about my career: “Kate Loche can now continue her career as a journalist.”

Still, who cares, when it means that there will be more cochlear implants available for people who need them!