3 – Lynette Gill

I was in my early teens when, unknown to me, I started to lose my hearing. I have no recollection of any ear infections or problems and I thought my hearing was okay. Just like everyone else my age I was busy listening to that new hip band, The Beatles, and my hearing was the last thing I thought about.
However, after the birth of my second daughter, during those late night feeding times heralded by the familiar sound of a crying hungry baby, I noticed my hearing was failing. I went to the Ear Nose and Throat specialist, Deane Beaumont. He found I indeed did have a hearing loss and performed a stapedectomy on my left ear. This is an operation to free up the little bones in the middle ear so they can vibrate with sound. After this procedure I noticed an improvement in that ear.
My specialist suggested, that to conserve what hearing I had left, I consider limiting my family, because my kind of hearing loss is made worse with pregnancy, but nature took over and baby number three was announced. Otosclerosis, which can occur during pregnancy, is irreversible and affects many women in the world. One famous lady who had this disease due to having children was England's queen Alexandra. She used a hearing trumpet in later life because there were no hearing aids as we know them. (I am at a loss to know why Beethoven should have the same condition because he certainly didn't have any babies!)
In my family my great aunt, who was a primary school headmistress, struggled to conceal her deafness to keep her job. So perhaps my hearing loss was hereditary.
During the early 1990's, as I reached my 40's, my hearing deteriorated more rapidly and I got my first hearing aid. I will never forget the feeling, standing in front of amplified music not hearing much at all. It felt as if my head was encased in a box because all sound was muted. Strangely, for a little while around this time my hearing returned. I was relieved and organised an even larger family brood with a second marriage.
My children grew and during their teenage years I found myself coping with very restricted hearing. This was a time when I really needed to hear. Sometimes the frustrations we all felt when I missed key words in conversations made life difficult. But years earlier I remembered my father telling me "there are always others worse off," so I ploughed on coping as best I could.
The children left home, married and had their own children. They were living interstate and now more than ever I needed my hearing to keep in touch with these important people in my life. I plainly saw a future with massive problems for 'dear old nana' sitting in the background as the children and their high pitched voices muddled my brain, indecipherable to me.
My wonderful husband was so patient through all this. When his own age related hearing loss started we had some very muddled conversations as we both misunderstood what the other was saying. (He tries to ignore his own hearing loss!)
The cochlear implantation process
In November 2007 I once again visited my ENT specialist, Dr Morrisey. My hearing had gone completely on one side and now seemed to tumble out of existence in what was my 'good' ear. Dr Morrisey suggested a cochlear implant. I went through all the assessments and agreed I would have one. But finding a suitable date was difficult. First March, but we had weddings and other family commitments. Then July but still more family commitments. Eventually we settled on a day in May 2008 and once set, there was no turning back. I felt it was go now or stay deaf with the chance it would get far worse.
I felt comfortable with Dr Morrisey as my surgeon. He talked me through the procedure and risks. He had performed many other implant operations and all these people were doing well. More importantly, he was involved in the outcomes. He enjoyed doing the operations seeing the major change this made to people's lives. Sounded good to me!
Another cochlear implantee, Jeff Wishart from the Cochlear Awareness Network came to visit me, to show me his implants and explain the procedure, the recovery and how they had improved his life. His experience gave me the confidence that I would appreciate the wonders of Professor Graeme Clark's wonderful invention.
The day arrived. I was anxious but had an over-riding excitement, an expectation that this was going to bring back my hearing. The operation was routine. The staff knew how to talk to me even though I could hear nothing. Ian Mawby, from Telex in Adelaide came to my emotional rescue offering me a hearing device in case I needed it while in hospital. (Ian had done this for me in 1992 when I had major open heart surgery to correct a bicuspid heart valve. I am indebted to his care and understanding.)
The day after my surgery I was visited by close family and, to my delight, Jeff Wishart visited me once again to explain anything I wanted to know regarding my implant. My mum (who had flown in from interstate to help me) and husband listened intently to what he had to say. As a bi-lateral implantee Jeff was the most qualified person I could think of to answer their questions.
And then?
It is now some months since my implant and I am so pleased and proud of the outcome. While shopping just today a lady saw I had an implant. She is deaf and was interested in discussing it because she had been considering it for herself. She, like so many of us, was often depressed over her lack of hearing. I told her not to give up but find out if it would help her because from my experience it is not just our deafness but the lack of understanding from others which causes us stress. When I couldn't hear, my long dark hair covered by hearing aids and people thought I was aloof, vague or downright rude when I hadn't even heard them.
Through my implant I have learnt to understand sound again. The professionals at the South Australian Cochlear Implant centre have helped me so much. They are a caring bunch of people who endured my jokes and watched me integrate my new hearing into my life.
To those who wonder what it's like – your hearing is unique and the implant isn't exactly the same. But it sure is the next best thing. How lucky I feel to have this opportunity to enjoy listening once again!
Ask my husband how he felt! He sat with tears in his eyes watching me enjoy a concert less than a month after my operation. It had been many years since I had been able to do that. The tone is not the same by between my new Freedom processor and cortex and I am not missing out.
My sincere thanks to Professor Clarke and his persistence in realising his vision of 'making deaf people hear’.
Lynette Gill is married to Chris and lives in Adelaide. She has three children, four grandchildren, two stepsons and five step grandchildren. She enjoys Fine Art painting, and is a member of the Queen Adelaide Society and the Pioneer Society of SA. She is UniSA Volunteer for aging seminars and the Tour Down Under. She is also active with Better Hearing Australia and the Cochlear Awareness Network.
Lyn found she gained confidence thanks to her cochlear implant and gladly joined all these clubs and societies to give back because she is grateful for her returned hearing.
Many thanks to her for sharing her cochlear implant experience with our readers !

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