Nov 2018 Newcastle Herald
Over the years, Peter Arnold had noticed a gradual loss of hearing. The retired GP, of Adamstown Heights, used hearing aids to cope with the slow changes. Then one night earlier this year, he went to bed – hearing as usual – but woke up “totally deaf” in his right ear. “I did an audiogram, and there was a tiny bit of hearing at that time, but it was barely there,” Dr Arnold, 77, said. “Two weeks later I had another audiogram, and by then the ear was as dead as they come. I saw an ear. nose and throat specialist, Dr Robert Eisenberg, and he had a thorough look. “He thought I was a good candidate for a cochlear implant. “I think I was meant to go off and think about it, but my immediate comment was – ‘And when are you going to do it?’ “I had no ifs, whats or buts. “I like to go to the theatre, I like to go to the opera. Life becomes very uninteresting when you can’t hear. You can feel very isolated.”
Do it: Dr Peter Arnold, of Adamstown Heights, is glad he went with a cochlear implant after he lost all hearing in one ear.
Two weeks later – about seven month ago – Dr Arnold underwent a two-hour cochlear implant procedure. Gradually, his hearing has improved to the point he can hear about 80 per cent of words, and his sentence perception is 90 per cent. “They tell me that by the time I get to 12 months, I should just about have normal hearing,” he said. “I have four grandchildren, and I couldn’t perceive what any of them were saying. Now, I can sit down with them and have conversations.”
The Sydney Cochlear Implant Centre has launched a public health campaign in the Hunter after a survey of adults living in Newcastle and Port Stephens found 60 per cent of those with serious hearing loss waited more than three years to get a hearing test. Associate Professor Kelvin Kong, a consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon, said hearing loss – particularly in middle age and in older populations – could be so gradual, that people often did not realise how much it was affecting their lives. But when people found themselves struggling to hear conversations due to background noise, or started noticing it getting harder to hear in rooms with tiles or floorboards – they were some big clues that it was time for a hearing check. “The thing is, this is something we don’t have to live with anymore,” Dr Kong said. “With today’s technology, and with Australia being a first world nation, there are so many options available to us, and we don’t have to live in the dark from that perspective. There are so many adverse outcomes if we don’t address our hearing loss. There is social isolation, loneliness, lack of confidence, stress, job performance. All of those things can be impacted, and we take it for granted that we’re actually hearing well.”
Dr Kong said he wanted people to talk more openly about hearing loss, and to be aware that hearing can, and does, change over time. Those who struggled with their hearing aids often required a review, or upgrade. “Seek professional help through your GP or an audiologist to get the help you require, and the hearing solution that is right for you,” he said. “They can help you to reach your goals. “Whether that’s being back in the social club, being able to have a conversation at the dinner table – I see so many grandparents who are left out of the conversations at the dinner table because the grand-kids struggle with them hearing them, and vice versa. That social dynamic really disengages them. To have a grandparent not be able to tell stories to their grand-kids, and vice versa, is heartbreaking. If you have an uncle, an aunty, a parent or a grandparent who is not hearing, it’s OK to have that very gentle conversation to say, ‘Go and get a 15-minute check, it will help you re-engage’. And if they already have a hearing aid, and they still can’t hear, it might mean they need an upgrade or another option.”