My Cochlear Implant Journey

Today, I had my 12 months check-up … well 4th December should be my 12 months check-up however I am jetting off to overseas this weekend hence why it is a week early.   Really … 12 months! Wow! Huge improvement since I already had English language established – spoken, reading and listening.   I was born with progressive hearing loss so I lose my hearing over time and I became profoundly deaf about 4 years ago.  This was confirm through my annual audiology appointment at Australian Hearing Services.

Really, it took me 5 years to make this decision to get a cochlear implant.  I remember making the first enquiry late 2005, about cochlear implant, especially with the new technology this was happening at the time. Cochlear Freedom … At that time, I was still skeptical about cochlear implant so I stop thinking about it.  I actually started considering cochlear implant in 2011 so I went to the doctor to ask for referral to the Cochlear Implant Centre at Mater Hospital in Brisbane … I undergone the consultation with the audiologist and did some test at the Cochlear Implant Centre.   They stated that I was eligible to have cochlear implant however the waiting list was 2 years long …

Well I decided to go privately and been referred to Dr Chris Que Hee.  Eventually I did further testing – the water test, the sleep test and whatever the other test was … I have completely forgotten about those test.  In some way I was very lucky because one of the test required me to keep my eye closed in a completely dark room for half an hour … I fell asleep and passed the test.  I was completely exhausted after a long day at work so I slept through the test.  That what they needed … still laugh about it today.  Often most adult fails the test and required to do the test again … I didn’t have to … phew!!!

I passed all the test in early 2012 and booked in my surgery for August, when I return from overseas – that was before Vulcana Women’s Circus sent out an email asking if anyone was interested in being part of the Wizard of Auslan. When they sent out an email, I decided to postponed it to Thursday 8th November, 3 days after my birthday as I wanted to be part of the creative process for Wizard of Auslan.

Fast forward to 8th November 2012, I had my surgery at St Andrews Hospital in Spring Hill – very friendly services and the nurse looked after me through the night.  The whole journey with Cochlear Implant has begun!!

1 week after my surgery, I remember when I became very concerned with the swollen lymph nodes and I had to call my specialist on the weekend via the emergency number.  I was given an antibiotic and  it turned out that it was virus unrelated to cochlear implant. Thank goodness.

I had mine first switch-on of my cochlear implant on the 4th December.  That when I first laughed at the sound that I heard in the room … I kept laughing and laughing that I couldn’t stop!!  My audiologist was surprised however expected.  Majority of her clients cried … I didn’t.  I just laughed.

I also remember on the first day of the switch-on, she mentioned that I should be wearing a football head gear like this:


For circus training … has anyone seen me with a football head gear yet ???? NOOO!!!  I am a risk taker and didn’t obey my audiologist. So far so good.

The cochlear implant journey consisted of:

  • 4 weekly appointment followed by
  • 4 fortnightly appointment followed by
  • 3 months check-up followed by
  • 6 & 8 months appointment and
  • 12 months check up.

I very well remember the first sound I really detest!!  I have this women who work next to me in the old building prior to moving to the current building where I work now …. she brings her lunch in a plastic bag and when she finish unpacking her lunch … Yes you get it, she crumbs the plastic bag very slowly and this really gets on my nerve!!!  I sit my computer doing the deep breathing exercise every time she decides to play with the plastic bag. I really detest the sound of plastic bags!!!   It took me a long time to get used to the sound of plastic bag.  I think it was around the 7 months mark that I finally accept the sound of plastic bags.

At 3 months check up – I was able to do 100% well on single word with the picture in front of me and dedicated 54% via radio voicing and 68% via live voicing without lipreading.  That is impressive for 3 months check-up with the cochlear implant.

6 & 8 months appointment just consist of mapping my cochlear implant – basically increasing the frequency of the sounds that I can hear. Not much adjustment was made and I was getting on with my life learning new sounds.

Then I had my 12 months check-up today – I can hear 88% through live voicing without lipreading, 71% through radio voicing and 33% with background noise and radio voicing … that is MASSIVELY impressive for the full 12 months with cochlear implant. Most Deaf people would exceed at least 60 to 70% via live voicing and 50 to 60% via radio voicing.  Only few cochlear implantee would go through the background noise with radio voicing testing at 12 months mark.

Really, this journey has been a very big journey for me and it was not an easy one.  I was telling a friend of mine, I may be an oral deaf however when I do get home, the first thing that I do is take my cochlear implant off and just relax with my deaf partner.  It is a lot of work for my brain and I am physically exhausted at the end of the day with learning all of the new sounds.

Also having to adjust to my cochlear implant and possible social rejection from the Deaf community for deciding to have a cochlear implant … It did happen however after a while they accepted my decision as an adult rather than a child.  After all, I came from a country town and I raised as a deaf oral person.   I didn’t grow up within a deaf community and is isolated in a country town.

I was telling someone that I don’t advocate Deaf people to get cochlear implant.  I will only share my experience of what cochlear implant is like.  I also mentioned that I would not encourage a deaf person to get a cochlear implant because everyone have their own experience.  For me, I am fortunate that I already have spoken and listening English language established whilst I was growing up therefore my journey to re-establishing the auditory sounds has been easy for me.

Only you can make that decision for yourself if you want to have a cochlear implant.  I am not telling you what to do or even get one.  If you do decide, remember it is a very long process and it is not a quick fix.  Also cochlear implant is just another powerful hearing aid.

Cochlear implant does not substitute the need for a sign language interpreter in any situation!

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