DanaeDanae pictured after her cochlear implant surgery

It was a cold Thursday morning in August 2019 and I was by myself sitting on a hospital bed waiting to have surgery. I was feeling emotional – scared about the surgeon drilling into my brain and the side of my face dropping. But I was also excited about it working and what I may hear. I knew my recovery would take two years and it was going to be hard, but I had no idea that it was going to be the hardest thing I have ever done.

I didn’t know until my late teens that I had hearing loss. The doctors think it happened when I was young from ear infections. I had grommets inserted into my ears, these are small ventilation tubes inserted into the eardrum to allow air into the middle ear and prevent a build-up of fluid. The second time I got the grommets the doctors told my parents that the infection was bad and if I didn’t have surgery, I could lose my hearing. Growing up, my parents thought I had selective hearing as my hearing tests came back normal. Years later we found out I had lost hearing in the high frequencies and was never tested in that range.

In my early 20s I saw an audiologist and asked if I could get hearing aids. He told me no as they wouldn’t help me and I cried. I was given a ‘Audiogram of Everyday Sounds’ and learnt that I couldn’t hear F, S & TH sounds – that was a very confronting moment. A few years later I was given a pair of hearing aids to try for 24 hours – I still remember the sound of the rain on my umbrella as I walked to work. I later got hearing aids but didn’t wear them often as it amplified all sounds and was uncomfortable.

Nine years ago, I was due to get a cochlear implant but three weeks before the surgery I canceled. I was a single mum with two young children and having private cover was too expensive for me. Then, three years ago, I knew my hearing in both ears was decreasing and I decided to investigate further. Everything happened quickly - lots of tests and appointments and just over a year later I got my implant.

I woke up from surgery with a loud ringing in my ear and I was extremely dizzy. Unfortunately, I am still dizzy but have just started with a new physio and am hopeful it will help. For weeks I wasn’t able to walk properly and since then I haven't been able to do as much as I would normally due to the dizziness. It has been difficult and it has impacted every aspect of my life. I lost all my natural hearing in that ear from surgery which has been very hard to get used to. 

There are videos of people having their processor (the bit that fits behind the ear which captures sound signals and sends them to a receiver implanted under the skin) switched on and are able to hear quickly. I love these videos and even though I was told not to expect that, I was hopeful that would happen for me. At my switch-on my mum recorded my reaction and I had overwhelming sounds of continuous beeps and squeals until about a month later when I finally understood my first sound – my car indicator!

Over time my brain has learnt a lot more sounds and the beeps and squeals have stopped. I am like a child now often asking, “What is that sound?” and I hear things I haven’t heard for a long time like the clock ticking or birds chirping which always makes me stop and smile. Sounds in the processor are tinny and robotic and I still can’t understand if a man, woman or child is speaking but my other ear can tell. Before surgery I was able to understand 94 per cent of sentences but only 44 per cent of sounds. One year after surgery I could hear 77 per cent of sounds. Normal hearing people cannot get 100 per cent on the sound test.

People think that once you are switched-on you can hear normally. I won’t be able to hear normal, but this is now a new normal for me. Noisy environments make it harder for me to understand. If you speak to someone with hearing loss and they don’t understand, please don’t tell them not to worry about what you have said, instead try to find a different way to repeat it.

I work four days a week mostly as a receptionist and my workplace is incredibly supportive. I cannot work full-time due to hearing fatigue. My children have been amazing during this journey and have noticed a big difference with my hearing.

There are days I struggle with feeling like I'm a bionic woman, but I am grateful that technology can assist me.

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Deafblindness

Here is a link to Deafblindness support and information.
They are based in Western Australia and supported by Senses Australia.

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Vision Statement: “For all young people who are deaf to reach their potential in life.”

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