I met Michael in Dunedin, where he lives with his wife, and was amazed how happy he seemed to talk about his experience with cochlear implant. He really feels indebted to this device and to all people who supported him with it, as it has changed his life for the best and given him back his cheerful mood. His brilliant success is the perfect example of the impact a cochlear implant can have on your life.
Read also Michael's story about the first days with his cochlear implant.
1) What are the main prejudices and problems that you’ve encountered with the cochlear implant so far ?
I have not encoutered any prejudices at all. At work everyone is delighted for me. Almost everyone treats me as a normal hearing person now. The occasional person still shouts at me as if I'm deaf, but that is all.
At airports I originally asked not to go throught the screening and in NZ was treated courteously and with respect. My only trouble occured at Frankfurt airport where I was treated like a terrorist.
I now just go through the normal screening process like other passengers-it doesn't harm anything.
2) Have you met other deaf people who were opposed to cochlear implant ? Have you managed to open a discussion about it ? If yes, how did it went ?
No, I have not met people opposed to CI's, but I am aware some people who believe strongly in belonging to the deaf culture don't want to change. All my acquaintances are like myself-people who lost their hearing later in life and really wanted it back. I don't see myself as a deaf person any more.
3) What is your family / friends / workmates’ attitude towards the cochlear implant ? Is it different now from what it was before the surgery ?
Everyone is amazed and delighted for me now. Most recognise the incredible change that has taken place. I think I am now just treated like everyone else. Before the CI I was certainly treated differently and not in a nice way. I lost my job, for example.
Of course, I prefer things as they are now.
4) What improvements do you think the current CI clinics and follow-up care would need ?
In NZ I don't think I could get better care from SCIPA (Southern Cochlear Implant Program for Adults) in Christchurch. They are outstanding. The Cochlear Awareness Network in Australia is also very supportive.
My only worry is the on-going maintenance care required for the processor. I have had some trouble with mine and I am now not under warranty.
5) What helped you the most in your process of searching information about CI and taking the decision to be implanted ?
It all happened by chance with me. I was referred for assessment for a CI but didn't even know what one was. The big thing for me was the day of assessment itself and meeting the woman who was to become my rehabilitationist and she had a CI. When I saw how great it was for her I thought, "I'm getting one of those."
I literally made my decision in a few seconds during the day of assessment.
6) What improvements would you like to see in general information about cochlear implant and in the support given to the willing-to-be implantees ?
I think in NZ everything is excellent. There are lots of people like myself who are happy to talk to prospective CI users & help them. There are many professionals also to help. I think the most important thing for anyone who wants to get a CI is to talk to lots of other CI wearers and that's easy in NZ.
7) What is your opinion about the current situation of the cochlear implant in New Zealand / Australia today ?
I think it's brilliant in NZ. I can't speak too highly of the superb treatment I've had and am still having. It's like a family. And, amazingly, it is all free.
I think the NZ Government should give more money for more implants and train more qualified technicians/surgeons for cochlear implants because they change lives and put people back into the work force.
I do think Cochlear, the company, also needs to do more research/work on making processors better for those of us who want to exercise, e.g. bike, run, ski. They don't like sweat or high temperatures and often 'die'. It's happened to me 5-6 times.
Many thanks to Michael for sharing his experience with our readers !