June 2020 Australian Hearing Hub
Ten years on from the cochlear implant that transformed her life, Louise is the Financial Controller of the Australian Association of Consultant Pharmacy and Board Member of Deaf ACT. Her journey to better hearing, however, started at the age of three. The youngest of four children, Louise Irvine was diagnosed with hearing loss at the age of three after developing the measles. It’s still unclear whether Louise was born with hearing loss or it developed in her early years. She relied on lipreading and then, after leaving school, was fitted with hearing aids. “This meant I missed out on conversations growing up” she said. “Being hard of hearing was isolating. There is a Deaf community but not a community for people who are hard of hearing”. “I had no exposure to people with hearing loss until I left school” she said.
Louise’s retail working life became difficult as her hearing loss progressed. Louise and Rod started their own community pharmacy where she took on responsibility for the finances as a way to better cope with her hearing loss. In 2010 Louise became Finance Assistant at the Australian Association of Consultant Pharmacy. With an interest in accounting and desire to progress her career, Louise enrolled in an Accounting Degree at the Australian National University, simultaneously working full-time and raising two children, Sam and Lucy. Not only that, but while Louise was studying, both children were navigating their final year of high school.
Deciding on a cochlear implant
Returning to university and progressing her career, in Louise’s words “would not have been possible without a cochlear implant”. As her level of hearing loss progressively increased, hearing aids were no longer enough. Searching for a solution, Louise explored the suitability of a cochlear implant. “When I found out I was a successful candidate for a cochlear implant this actually made my situation harder because I had to make a decision” she said. “After reading success stories and not wanting to delay getting a cochlear implant I decided to give it a go. In my mind it was my last chance to rediscover my hearing and I was committed to making it work. When I received the implant, I wore it as much as possible” Louise said. “I used podcasts and audiobooks to develop my hearing because all I could hear was the words. This was an important moment. It opened up my world”. She now has a keen interest in wellness, healthy eating and exercise and actively watches and listens to videos and podcasts daily. The best possible outcomes she experiences continue to transform her life.
RIDBC Audiologist Anne-Marie Crowe attributes the success Louise is experiencing to her commitment and dedication. “Louise is a great example of someone who has worked really hard on getting the best result from her cochlear implant” she said. “She investigates the options available and has considered the recommendations and advice offered to her” Anne-Marie continues. “It is always a pleasure seeing Louise and it is nice to see her world open up after choosing to have an implant.”
Today, Louise wears a hearing aid to support the cochlear implant. She says that the bi-modal (hearing aid and cochlear implant) hearing solution is the right combination for her. Although group situations can still pose a challenge, Louise’s confidence is high, especially as she can also utilise her old lipreading skills to help her out.
Today, Louise Irvine is the epitome of success. Her career is flourishing, she has a loving family and at every opportunity gives back to her Canberra community. Louise has a passion to help others. “I now have the confidence to give back,” she says. As a Deaf ACT Board member, Louise is interested in advocacy, mental health and sport. She believes people who are deaf, hard of hearing and deafblind have a lack of mental health support which is something she is determined to change. She hopes that by sharing her story, others who are experiencing progressive hearing loss will explore their hearing options, just as she did.