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!

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.

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

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.
Wendy

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.

Thought I would post some pictures that I have been taking along this journey.

These ones are from the very first moment Ben set me up to listen to an audio book. It was a wonderful moment! I hadn’t done this since before my hearing  became so bad when I was about  15 years old.

Kate’s Totally Awesome Personal Audio Book Party

Ben hooked me up to the iRiver to listen to the audio book. Here is saying to me, "Can you work out where you are in the book?" And I am trying to listen to see if I can pick up where in the book the audio has started.

Ben hooked me up to the iRiver to listen to the audio book. Here is saying to me, "Can you work out where you are in the book?" And I am trying to listen to see if I can pick up where in the book the audio has started.

Nearly there - what is that word? It sounds like "Chronoguards", but what the hell is a "chronoguard"?? Surely there is no such thing, and I am just not hearing it properly?

Nearly there - what is that word? It sounds like "Chronoguards", but what the hell is a "chronoguard"?? Surely there is no such thing, and I am just not hearing it properly?

Oh my god it IS the chronoguards! I can hear the damn thing!!! OMG it's a miracle! I found where I am on the page!!! Wheeeee!

Oh my god it IS the chronoguards! I can hear the damn thing!!! OMG it's a miracle! I found where I am on the page!!! Wheeeee!

 

 

One happy little vegemite, posing with the first ever audio book that she's listened to since becoming profoundly deaf a decade ago!

One happy little vegemite, posing with the first ever audio book that she's listened to since becoming profoundly deaf a decade ago!

 

 

Experiencing rain for the first time with the implant

And that is not all – here I have a photograph of me listening to rain for the very first time with the cochlear implant while we were having a mini-break in the Kangaroo Valley in NSW, Australia.

I said to Ben: "What's that noise?" And he said "Rain."

I said to Ben: "What's that noise?" And he said "Rain."

"Oh man!!! Rain!! I can hear it!" The first time I heard rain through the cochlear implant it sounded like the tippy top three notes trilling on an electric piano. Totally bizarre, musical and beautiful. he he he!!! I am soooo lucky!

"Oh man!!! Rain!! I can hear it!" The first time I heard rain through the cochlear implant it sounded like the tippy top three notes trilling on an electric piano. Totally bizarre, musical and beautiful. he he he!!! I am soooo lucky!

 

And now, how about two totally unrelated pics – both of Ben – when he came home after managing to buy a whole wheel of French ‘Munster’ cheese for only AUD$5. They usually cost $90-$100, and are difficult to find in Sydney. Yes, what a bargain. He went completely nuts when he brought them home.

Ben showing that there is more than one use for a wheel of cheese.

Ben showing that there is more than one use for a wheel of cheese.

Ben showing extreme happiness in finding a rare cheese for 5 bucks. Can't you just see imagine the squeal he is making! "Eeeeeeee! Cheeeeeeese! And it's allllll miiiiiiine!"

Ben showing extreme happiness in finding a rare cheese for 5 bucks. Can't you just see imagine the squeal he is making! "Eeeeeeee! Cheeeeeeese! And it's allllll miiiiiiine!"