Michael lives in Dunedin, on the South island of New Zealand, with his wife. He became gradually deaf during adulthood and greatly suffered from it, until his path came to an unexpected crossroads.
This is his story of a wonderful meeting with cochlear implant.
and read also his on this website !
Years of poor hearing had cost me my job, some friendships and a loss of confidence. On a whim, in early 2006, I went to Christchurch for assessment for a Cochlear Implant. In July that same year I was put on a waiting list and told to be patient for 5½ years. I waited – but not for long.
Skip to budget night 2007. I am happily looking forward to the big overseas trip my wife Jan and I had planned for September and October, oblivious to the fact that funding for my Cochlear Implant and surgery was just a matter of weeks away. The Government's decision due to the looming election, to fund 20 more adult implants suddenly turned my year upside down, accelerated me to the top of the waiting list and scared the daylights out of my wife.
With surgery scheduled for July 29, switch-on for August 20 and my departure for Europe on September 3rd, I would be able to have only one post switch-on mapping session before flying out. A case of ear today and gone tomorrow. A problem for Beth, the SCIPA audiologist (Southern Cochlear Implant Program for Adults, based to Christchurch) ? Not a jot. Fortunately, I breezed through the surgery, attacked switch-on week with energy and 'hit the ground running', to quote Penny, my 'ear shrink'.
The first day I was hearing well, despite having to cope with my wife Jan sounding like a cross between Helen Clark and Donald Duck. Everything else, bar audiologist Beth, sounded like water going down a drain and Zoe, our German Pointer barked like a glass rattling on a formica table.
A meal out at Indochine in Christchurch on this Day 1 will always be a special memory, and not only for the superb food. Restaurants had always been a major problem for us, but, now, no longer did Jan have to write her side of our conversations down on paper. The Beam program was brilliant that day but oddly, I've never had to use it since. High on it all, we dashed across town to chat with my sister and her husband. My new 'ear' and I were fast becoming close friends. Days 2 and 3 found me watching the news on TV, using the telephone with some success. I was even listening to music on Penny's MP3 player, even though the Eagles, (Penny's choice I hasten to add), didn't sound like they were 'Taking it Easy', but rather, straining like they had a bad dose of constipation.
Still, there was the little matter of 5 weeks overseas to consider and the necessary cancellation of impending mapping appointments. Would my current program just 'fade out' over that time leaving me deafer than before? Would I have technical problems with the processor and no access to Cochlear's services? Would all those airport security scanners damage something? What if I lost the damned thing or jet-lagged wore it in the shower?
But just 15 days after switch-on, buoyed by all the encouragement and armed by Beth and Penny with various gadgets, an extra emergency program and addresses of Cochlear services in Germany, our major destination, my new 'ear', wife and I boarded Air New Zealand bound for Hong Kong. My old ears boarded too, now just decorations, something to hang my sunnies on.
Travelling with a Cochlear Implant is actually fun but there are some issues too. First, do you have it covered individually on your travel insurance? I didn't and decided I would spend the $250 I would save on something for me instead! Like fine German beer and some Bose head phones. Secondly, do you take the big drying box to put your processor in at night? No, to that one as well. I purchased disposable discs of silica gel and just popped one in a container with my BTE each night. Thirdly, of all the extras you get with your implant the one you absolutely must take with you is your audio coil; forget the naff cap. With the appropriate two pronged attachment to pop on the end of it you can plug in directly to the aircraft's sound system and not worry about the inferior headsets that won't comfortably sit on your processor's microphone. And a bonus, you look way cool – the envy of everyone else on your flight.
Later on, I would also discover I could plug my coil directly into the sound systems of hop-on, hop-off tour buses in Europe to listen to commentaries I would otherwise have struggled with.
Flying was an aural delight, where previously it had been just a noisy, boring experience, unable to hear my wife, the movies, music or air stewards. I had purchased, in a mad moment of optimism just hours before departure, an MP3 player, hastily down-loaded some of my ancient, dusty CD's on to it and cruised the skies listening to Dylan, Neil Young, The Muttonbirds, Cocker, Joplin, Redding…yes, I know, my music 'stopped' for me some time in the distant past. At just 15 days since switch-on the tracks, especially acoustic ones, sounded not quite like they used to but good enough to keep me sitting there with a dumb grin on my face for hours. I had given up on music a decade ago, to re-discover it 30,000 feet above the Pacific, through a computer imbedded in my skull. It was kind of surreal.
Another great discovery was again being able to hear the sound track for the films on the plane. With my own personal screen (thanks Air New Zealand) and a bewildering choice of what to view, the long-haul flight was for this born-again listener a pleasure, not a drag. Sure, I missed some dialogue, but then don't we all? It's easy to forget everyone mishears things.
The first month of my Cochlear Implant experience has probably not been your average one but I wouldn't have changed a thing. To combine the new me with travelling to new places and meeting new people was wonderful. When I first saw a Cochlear Implant stuck like an insect on the side of someone's head I was horrified. But in Europe I wanted to show it to everyone, talk about it and bewilder humourless security guys at airports with it: I was proud of it; it had quickly become part of who I now was. Confident, music loving, extrovert and profoundly deaf Michael. Something to shout about … really loudly.
Text and links, courtesy Cochlear Awareness Network.