Cochlear Implants: Susan’s Journey
Cochlear implants may still be unfamiliar to the average person with hearing impairment, even though the first implant was performed here in Victoria almost 40 years ago.
An implant can be life changing for those whose hearing is no longer able to be adequately assisted with hearing aids, due to the severity of their loss or the reduction in sound quality. While the thought of having an implant in their head can be daunting, this story from one of our clients who has gone through the process herself, shows the amazing benefits that can be achieved, when nothing else can help.
Sue was implanted in her right ear in 2022 and has documented her journey for us.
Tell us about your history of hearing loss and how it was impacting your life prior to getting a cochlear implant?
I first noticed a problem with my hearing in my right ear in 2000. I was at the cinema watching the film Twister, which obviously had a very loud soundtrack. I felt as if all the noise was inside my head and when the man next to me gave a loud belly laugh, it was quite overwhelming. The hearing in that ear soon took a dive, I developed tinnitus and had bouts of extreme vertigo, causing me to see an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. He sent me off for an MRI and when the results came back, he said how pleased he was that my brain was healthy. I asked, “What about my ear?” He replied that it was probably Meniere’s Disease, about which little was understood, and that there was no cure. He added that in one in four cases, it affects the other ear as well.
My left ear held on until about 10 years ago, when the hearing started to diminish and that was when I started using a hearing aid. As the hearing deteriorated further, I began to find many social situations difficult, especially with any background noise, and began to withdraw from large gatherings, theatre and films, as it was too difficult to follow the dialogue.
What made you look in to getting a cochlear implant?
I first enquired about an implant in 2016, due to the difficulties I was experiencing as listed above. However, at that stage I had too much hearing to qualify. Six years later, the hearing in my left ear had diminished further and was unstable, so I applied again and was successful.
What was the assessment process like?
The assessment process involved multiple audiologist appointments over several months, with various hearing tests, and then an appointment with the ENT surgeon, who had the final say.
What was the surgery like?
The surgery took about two and a half hours, and I stayed in hospital overnight. I woke with a large bandage around my head and a small, shaved section of hair behind my right ear. There was no pain. The doctor removed the bandage in the morning, and I was discharged about 11am.
What was the ‘switch on’ appointment like?
The audiologist had warned me that I may not hear much except squeaks and squawks at first, but she said my brain would learn to understand this new way of hearing before too long. I was very fortunate however, and as soon as I was switched on, I could understand every word she said; she sounded as if she was under water, but I could understand.
I then used a training App to refine how well I could discern sounds that are very similar to one another, and now I hear just as I did with my natural hearing.
After your implant, did you continue to wear your hearing aid on your other ear?
How is your hearing like now compared to before?
It is so much better, quite life-changing in fact! My friends say how much more relaxed I look, as I am not straining to hear every word. I have even booked to go overseas next year, by myself, something I never thought I could contemplate before the implant
At Victorian Hearing we pride ourselves on delivering quality hearing healthcare and personalised hearing solutions, including both bone anchored and cochlear implantable options. To learn more about cochlear implants, reach out to the team at Victorian Hearing, your local, independent, and Australian owned and operated hearing clinic. With ten clinics across Melbourne, you are sure to find a friendly smile and support from the Victorian Hearing team. Call (03) 9558 8842 or book online.