John Christianson lives in Auckland and is now retired, what allows him to be a very active member of the Cochlear volunteer network in New Zealand. He was really keen on telling me about his cochlear implant experience and to exchange about it with anybody at the network meeting in Auckland where I got to know him. His enthusiasm was highly valued by other implant recipients and contributed to the meeting's general high mood.
Read also John's story on this website, and on the Cochlear Awareness Network website.
1) What are the main prejudices and problems that you’ve encountered with the cochlear implant so far ?
Generally the simple answers is none. Airport electromagnetic security gate—since receiving my CI some 12 years ago I have enjoyed many flights overseas mainly to Australia but also to Europe, British Isles, Canada, Hong Kong etc. Never has this been a problem for me so over these years I have wonder who it affects and why—-or is it really a problem at all ?The only problem I strike from time to time is the wearing of certain types of hats and crash helmets . I have the Freedom Processor, but I gather with the latest the Nucleus 5 the transmitting coil is smaller and flatter so is less of a problem. With the CI being a electronic device, exposure to all the weather conditions that Mother Nature can toss up one needs to be mindful of protecting it from salt air, dust, moisture and extreme heat. Strong wind under some conditions can distort incoming speech. Speech and Music from sound system can sometimes be impossible to understand—especially if it is very loud.
2) Have you met other deaf people who were opposed to cochlear implant ? Have you managed to open a discussion about it ?
Yes, but being very much aware of their culture thinking in this respect I have stepped back from having such a discussion. For the record I’m the type that would rather go around with a oiling can and fix the squeaks rather than to cause them.
3) What is your family / friends / workmates’ attitude towards the cochlear implant ? Is it different now from what it was before the surgery ? Do you like it as it is now ?
Born again hearing at the age of 57 some 54 year after losing most of it at the age of 3 was cause for great excitement, celebration and acceptances by all the people I know. Indeed it took time for me to learn and become efficient with the new sounds I was hearing and for others to realise this CI was not a Hearing Aid but in fact is a Bionic Ear. Looking back now over the last 12 years the only time that I have the feeling of a hearing problem is when my CI is switched off. i.e. bedtime. In general my daily life is much busier, engaging, enjoyable and full of confidence now with the CI than before and people accept me as one of them without questions. No longer do I suffer from what I call Deafness Stress— that’s my health is much better from having a CI and a much relaxed life style.
4) What improvements do you think the current CI clinics and follow-up care would need ?
Short answer none apart from more money made available to reduce the waiting list for new CI. Here in Auckland we are blessed by a total first class service where the expericence staff have been with the clinic for many years. The Audiologist and Hearing Therapist involved in my switch on 12 years ago are still taking care of my annual checkup which from patients respective means heaps.
5) What helped you the most in your process of searching information about CI and taking the decision to be implanted ?
12 years ago the information about CI in the public arena in NZ was virtually nil. Many Audiologist and GP’s etc. had simply not heard of or were not aware of the CI. I was lucky my Hearing Specialists at the time was Chairperson of the Cochlear Implant Committee and it was he who referred me to the local CI Clinic. So it was on the advise of my Audiologist and Hearing Specialist that with what little hearing I had left at the time I decided to have the CI. I just felt at the time to be very grateful to be accepted for a CI and with my hearing virtually nil I had nothing to lose and everything to gain if it was a success. Success it was and still is.
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 ?
Educating the public is and ongoing thing and information about hearing, deafness and CI needs to be to the fore front especially in our ever increasing noisy environment. Some money has become available in NZ in recent times for such discussions and material to be made available to children at Child Care and Primary Schools. More needs to be done here but once again it comes down to the money. The Cochlear web site is excellent and more people need to be made aware of it. The Cochlear Awareness Network of which I’m a member with 2 others in NZ and over 50 in Australia appear to be doing a very good job in spreading the word on the benefits of CI. There is, and I believe for many years to come a general lack of understand by Joe Public as to what a Cochlear Implant is and how it works. From my involvement with would be candidates on the waiting list in NZ they are well supported by the clinic with information about CI and the chances to ask questions..
7) What is your opinion about the current situation of the cochlear implant in New Zealand / Australia today ? Are you satisfied by it ?
Although I receive regular feed back of the good work being done with CI in Australia I will reply to this question as for New Zealand. As in many countries the CI public programme in NZ is restricted by the amount of dollars the Government is willing to contributed on going.. Currently we have approximately 4,000 profoundly deaf people who could benefit from CI but after some 20 years only around 450 children and Adults now have CI. A plus must be the introduction some years ago in NZ of the automatic programme of giving babies in need of CI one by about the age of 10 months. This is fully funded by the Government, separate from the usual children/Adult programme. Currently in the Northern CI Programme, which is from Palmerston North north there are currently approximately 70 Adults on the Public waiting list. The programme some years back was Implanting around 15 yearly but in recent times because of the cost of maintaining the overall programme this is down to around 5 yearly. So the current situation for many on them is grim unless they are able to consider having it privately. With the CI now being much more reliable this has become a growth business in NZ for those who are able to fund their own. For the record I have no figures as to how many people have had a CI privately. The PINDROP Foundation was set up in 2006 and now has limited funds to part fund CI both public and private.
So in summary the CI these days is extremely efficient and reliable, staff and faculties first class that just needs more money to support the CI Programme.
Many thanks to John for sharing his experience with our readers !