An interview, via a mobile phone doesn’t worry Mike Batt, renowned as the first child in the UK to have a multi-channel cochlear implant when he was three. Now, 22 years old, living and working away from home, he says that he can manage fine and even phone calls well unless there’s a lot of background noise.
Mike went deaf after contracting meningitis at a time when there was no NHS support for cochlear implantation and his family, friends, the local community, a nation wide appeal and even a donation from soldiers in the Falklands at the time – all raised funds for the operation at the Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham.
Mike began school at a school for the deaf, but it closed and he was left with the option of travelling miles for another, or going to mainstream school locally, with local friends, which he did. Initially he was put in a class with children with learning and behaviour problems, but his parents lobbied to get him out of this environment, which was the right move, as he went on to get 11 GCSEs and 3 A levels. Maths A level he said was particularly hard for someone with hearing problems because of the complex mathematical language, but he stuck it out.
Mike graduated from University with a first in Design and Technology for Industry last June. Asked if he had problems at University with his implant and hearing, he said he felt he’d “landed lucky” with support finally. He applied for a Disability Student Allowance and managed to buy a computer which helped and he was given a note-taker for all lectures as he couldn’t write and listen at the same time.
He laughs about an incident at work recently when he held his first telephone conference with five people around the world – from as far afield as China. Suddenly during the conference call, panic struck when he thought his cochlear implant had failed him – perhaps the batteries had run down he thought as he couldn’t make sense of anything being said. A minute later all was well, when he found out they’d been speaking Chinese!
And, what now? Mike’s enjoying his new job and is house hunting. He’s had the same Cochlear implant for 18 years. He says he’s asking questions about bilateral implantation, but he’s managing well at the moment. He has never heard every word of any conversation, but if people aren’t speaking Chinese he can cope well enough!