March 2019 The Advocate

Sitting in the Tasmanian Family Medical building at South Burnie that was part of his former workplace, Phillip Carswell had his cochlear implant switched on for the very first time.

"It was a really amazing thing. The whole concept of a cochlear implant is remarkable," the retired Christian Pastor said.

It was when he was working as an accountant at APPM in Burnie that he first had a hearing test as part of a company program. “Looking back now I can see there were some problems with my hearing with learning although nothing was ever done.” Mr Carswell first met Dr Kellie Walker when she was a little girl attending Sunday school. He became her patient about 20 years ago and since then she has fitted him with various hearing aids.

Phillip Carswell

Dr Kellie Walker examines Phillip Carswell's cochlear implant at Tasmanian Hearing and Implant Centre 

"The biggest thing is getting over the feeling of the nuisance part ... and getting used to a different sound.” When he made a career change to Senior Pastor at Romaine Park Christian Centre, being able to listen clearly was even more crucial. His amateur table tennis career also depended on the ability to listen to the pop of the ball on the paddle. Two weeks ago Mr Carswell went to Sydney to be fitted with a cochlear implant in the right ear to address a drop in hearing on that side.

But not all Tasmanians can afford this life-changing procedure.

cochlear

Dr Walker runs the only private cochlear implant clinic in the state. She said patients going through the public system would wait from 18 months to two years for the implant whereas her patients could get a surgery date within weeks. The longer the wait, the more likely the patient's hearing and quality of life will deteriorate significantly. “We’re lucky in regional Tasmania to have this clinic. “[The cochlear implant] shouldn’t be an elite product for the capital cities.” Dr Walker said it was important for hearing loss to be treated as soon as possible.“It doesn’t have to be a disaster. We have the technology.”

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