5 – Chris Temby

Unfortunately, I've not been able to see Chris Temby face-to-face due to particular circumstances; but I dare give here his story, as he'd written it for the Cochlear Awareness Network.
Chris became an Electronic Engineer and his first job was designing hearing aids. When in his 30's Chris found his hearing starting to deteriorate he was fitted with an aid in one ear. By the time he was 60 he needed to wear two digital aids. One day he lost all the hearing in one ear, and was fitted with a cochlear implant in that ear. Chris has written stock market books, and lectures on that topic.
This is his story.
My mother was deaf from her teen years, supposedly due to measles. Her deafness became progressively worse, until at her death she had no hearing. Mother trained as a kindergarten teacher, and in her 40s, when her deafness became severe, she taught dressmaking to deaf children at a Special School at North Adelaide. As a boy, I remember her eating meals with her little black box hearing aid sitting on the kitchen table.
When I graduated from University in 1961, my first job was as a physicist at the then Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratory (CAL) at the old Custom's House on Circular Quay in Sydney. My boss was Ray Piesse, and my work mostly involved designing transistorized hearing aids and audiometers, along with some noise measurements at industrial sites.
Transistor Hearing Aids
Shortly after joining CAL, Ray tested my hearing. I was surprised to find I had a notch hearing loss in both ears around 4,000 Hz. This loss can be caused by exposure to loud noises but I had no history of this exposure. Over the years my hearing gradually decreased, and when I was 35 years old I started wearing my first behind-the-ear aid in just one ear. My audiogram at that time showed a flat loss of 60 db in both ears above 1,500 Hz, while at 500 Hz the loss was only about 25 db.
In 1965 I went to UK and worked there for three years, and then returned to Adelaide to join the Weapons Research Establishment. I worked at WRE some 20 years as a research scientist. During my working career I have always worked in a quiet office location, and none of my hobbies expose me to loud noise so there seemed to be no reason for my hearing loss.
By the time I was 51 my deafness had deteriorated to a flat loss of 75 db in both ears above 500 Hz, while at 250 Hz the loss was 60 db. I bought a more powerful aid, but social contact had become noticeably more difficult. Round table conversations were embarrassing, as were attending restaurants and other venues with high levels of background noise. I was always searching for the key words in a conversation, and having picked up one or two, found invariably that the conversation had moved on. I reverted to having one-on-one conversations with understanding friends away from the crowd.
My aids were always fitted with a T switch, and I had better speech discrimination and understanding by phone, than any other means.
As I grew older I did lip reading classes with Better Hearing, and this was helpful. I bought a Loewe Video Recorder that allowed captions to be displayed on TV programs and I installed a hearing loop in the ceiling of our family room, attaching it to the TV. I bought a door bell that rang a loud bell in my study. I bought a vibrator to wear on my belt that was activated by the ringing of the phone. In short, I traveled the familiar path deaf people tread as they slip into a world of silence, while using available technology to try to keep in touch with the hearing world they understand.
Deaf people slip into a world of silence
In my professional career as an engineer, part of the job always involved giving verbal presentations and writing technical reports. I was a member of a Rostrum Public Speaking Club for about 20 years. (Rostrum is an international public speaking organization that fosters the art and skills of public speaking.) I had to give this up when my deafness became more pronounced.
I have been interested in the stock market as a hobby for decades, and in my retirement I wrote a manuscript on one aspect of trading on the stock market. This manuscript was subsequently published in 1997 by Wrightbooks of Melbourne with the title "Trading Stock Options and Warrants". The book was well received and went into a third edition.
There is nothing like a successful book to open doors. I found myself on the lecture circuit visiting the capital cities. On two occasions I gave the lunch time lecture at the Sydney Stock Exchange. I enjoy lecturing, and in 2000 offered to run a single course for the Adelaide WEA (adult education), based on some of the material in the book. I am still running that course 8 years later, and have subsequently written six further courses for the WEA on various aspects of the stock market trading and investing. My general introductory courses attract enrollments of typically 70 to 100 students, while the specialized courses attract typically 15 to 20 students. I structure my courses in such a way that my deafness does not distract from the lectures.
When I was 60 I bought my first pair of digital aids, and found binaural hearing to be helpful. Two years later my wife and I went on a 10 day bus trip to NZ, and while there I contracted a virus that required penicillin antibiotics to clear a heavy head, temperature and blocked ears. A few days after returning home, one afternoon I noticed that my right ear was losing discrimination and voices sounded like Donald Duck. I immediately saw my family doctor and audiologist, but with no improvement. I got an appointment to see my ENT specialist a couple of weeks later. Basically he said had I seen him immediately he might have put me into the oxygen tank at the Adelaide hospital, but it was too late now.
Not long after that disturbing episode I changed my hearing aid provider to Telex, and became a client of their chief audiologist Ian Mawbey. This was a turning point for me. I had known Ian over the years through hearing him speak at various functions. I bought a new pair of Seno Diva state-of-the art digital aids, and had several fitting sessions. Ian put me in contact with Keith Chiveralls of Flinders Medical Centre, Cochlear Implant Centre, and between the two of them, my new aids were optimally matched to my hearing loss. I was now 66, and my deafness had deteriorated to a flat loss of 85 db in both ears above 1,000 Hz, while at 250 Hz the loss was still about 60 db.
Towards cochlear implant
Keith told me about the cochlear implant and thought my hearing was getting bad enough to be considered a candidate. So I changed my ENT specialist to Dr Paul Varley, one of the two cochlear specialists in Adelaide
Deaf people have an inherent fear of one morning waking up stone deaf. A fortnight before Christmas in 2006, in the course of one Sunday morning, for no apparent reason, I lost all the hearing in my right ear. I have several working old hearing aids and ear pieces. I tried these in the right ear but the result was the same – zilch. The following Monday I was at my GP's door when he opened, and he immediately arranged an appointment with my ENT for that day. Dr Varley put me onto a steroid tablet treatment (he said the oxygen tank treatment had fallen out of favour).
The upside of this loss of hearing made me a candidate for a cochlear implant. Dr Varley and Dr Morissey had established the SA Cochlear Implant Centre a couple of years ago and with this initiative the backlog of private patients wanting a cochlear implant has been worked through, and now the waiting time, if you have private Health Cover, is just a few months.
I had the usual battery of tests, and several sessions with SACIC, where the residual hearing in my right ear was 120 db above 1,000 Hz. In January Keith did a speech discrimination test in a quiet environment. The results were:
  • Left only with aid = 82%
  • Right only with aid = 7%
  • Both aids in – surprisingly 95%
On the signal to noise (S/N) ratio test, the my score was +3db, which means that speech must be twice as loud as the background noise in order for me to understand at least 50% of the words spoken. A person with normal hearing is able to understand 100% of words spoken even when the words are softer than the background noise.
The date for my operation was set – Tuesday 29.5.07, and was done at St Andrews Hospital. Dr Varley said it went smoothly and took a relatively short 2 hours.
I had little post-op pain but was dizzy for several days. Some implantees can go home after 2 days, but in my case the dizziness persisted longer so I stayed in hospital for 5 days.
Monday 23.6.07 was Switch-on Day and my wife drove me to SACIC. The integrity test showed that all 22 electrodes were working. Then the big moment of turning on the Speech Processor. My head was filled with sounds like an orchestra warming up, along with a dominant didgeridoo. This lasted for about 5 minutes. After about 10 minutes I started to understand words spoken by the audiologist but she sounded like a Dalek. The sound was localized in my right ear, so that was nice. By 8 pm that night, I could understand my wife talking and this was as good as could be expected for just my first day.
Back to hearing
I attended the ten post-implant mapping sessions over four weeks, and little-by-little my brain/speech processor/cochlear implant combination evolved until I had a good understanding of speech and music.
Four months after switch-on, Keith did a complete assessment of the performance of the cochlear implant.
  • Listening to open sentences test with no lip reading – about 95% words correct.
  • Listening to open sentences test with lip reading – 100% words correct.
  • Understanding everyday sounds (telephone ring, door bell, barking dog, etc) – 14 right out of 15.
  • Using the telephone with the T setting – 100% words correct
  • Using the telephone without the T setting – about 95% words correct
  • The signal to noise test was +3db.
I am one of the lucky ones as Keith tells me my results are about as good as it gets for CI people.
Hearing in my left ear has remained much the same at a flat loss of 85 db above 1,000 Hz, with a loss at 250 Hz of 60 db. When I am out and about, I find it best to use the hearing aid in my left ear and the CI in my right ear.
Since having the CI, I am very conscious of having binaural hearing again. If I listen to say a program on TV with just the left ear with hearing aid, I get by sort of OK. If I then listen with just the right ear with CI, I get by sort of OK. But if I have both devices turned on, it's like opening the flood gates to a wall of sound that caries full understanding and pitch.
Since having the CI I have stopped being a conversational wall-flower, and am confident to start a conversation with a stranger, knowing I will understand what is said in reply. This is a new experience, and very enjoyable.
In January 2008 I turned 70. My wife was surprised that I wanted to celebrate with a function in a local hotel with 40 guests. We had a served meal, and then we played Crazy Whist for an hour or so, rotating through tables of 4 people, which is a happy way of mixing. My wife said that I would not have contemplated such an event before the CI.
I am able to enjoy music again after decades of ignoring it as irritating noise. I am a member of Better Hearing and CICADA. I am delighted with the success of my cochlear implant, and am happy to be part of the Cochlear Awareness Network, telling my story to others who may be slipping down that road to silence.
Source of this interview : Cochlear Awareness Network site

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