A life changing experience

Soon after I completed my nurse training in 1968 it became noticeable that I was finding it difficult to hear. After tests I was given a hearing aid for my right ear. I found this uncomfortable  to begin with and the hearing aid spent a lot of time in a drawer only being worn if I was attending meetings, till eventually I couldn`t manage without my hearing aids. As time went on my hearing progressively decreased and I was given bi-lateral hearing aids. I was also told about cochlear implants but when I found out how much the operation would cost the NHS I refused telling my consultant that the money would be better used on a child who is likely to have more years ahead of them then someone of my age! Working on busy wards became difficult. Eventually I retired from nursing six years earlier than I had intended. At that time I felt I was suffering a double bereavement, not only had I lost my hearing but also my life long career. I took a part time job caring for adults with mild learning difficulties – not quite the same as nursing but still in the caring profession. My family is rapidly increasing and I enjoy having my grandchildren around me. From an early age Lara my eldest grandchild, now age seven, loved singing and would often sing for me. One day after singing my favourite song, Ava Maria, Lara told me she wished my hearing was better. I wished that also but hearing that from Lara made me think seriously. I so wanted to be able to hear Lara`s beautiful voice.

Within a short space of time I was referred to the South of England Cochlear Implant Centre at Southampton and was assessed for suitability for implant. I was admitted to Southampton General Hospital on February 10th 2012 and operation took place the same day. Post operatively I recovered well and was discharged on day three.
Switch on of implant was five and a half weeks later when the wound had healed and swelling reduced. Switch on is a really exciting time, rather like waiting for exam results.  As I sat wired up to a computer and programing began there was no sound. My husband and the two scientists all looked pretty grim. Eventually after what seemed ages I heard sound like a bird twittering and began to hear other sounds.  The grim faces turned to smiles. At first the brain has to learn to interpret the sounds so progress is slow. Several visits later with more programming and speech and language therapy I am delighted with the results. It is still early days but my hearing should continue to improve. It will never be normal hearing. The sound coming from implant is bionic and takes much getting used to. I will always have to wear my left side hearing aid and also lip read. There is no upper age limit so those of you who read this and are struggling with hearing and finding hearing aids of little use do consider an implant.  The cause of my deafness is unknown probably genetic as our son Matthew is also deaf. He is managing well with hearing aids at the moment. I hope I will be a good role model for him should he need an implant in the future.

Grateful thanks to my beloved granddaughter for all the encouragement she gave me and to the wonderful team at Southampton Cochlear Implant Centre