March 2018 Bristol Post
"I am over two stone lighter, enjoy hiking and cycling and my drinking is under control to just one or two times a week - it makes me glad to be alive” A retired teacher believes a hearing implant saved his marriage, brought him back from the brink of obesity, and overall made him feel 20 years younger. Tim Jones from Bristol said the gift of hearing properly – which so many of us take for granted - has endless benefits.
The 68-year-old hit a real low point in his 40s when he says he felt “judged and embarrassed” for his two daughters who were teenagers at the time. And when the problems he was having were putting a massive strain on his long-term marriage with wife Lyn. “When I was 50, I weighed 19 stone, my knees were shot and I had a drink problem,” said Tim, who is naturally severely deaf.
He had worn hearing aids since the age of 15 but they were ineffective because he suffered from a long-standing condition known as discharging ears. They would aggravate the problem never allowing the ears to ventilate and heal. Because of this he would avoid social situations, afraid that the discharge would smell and that he would be unable to hear well enough to keep up with conversations. Tim said: “I was in a constant cycle of compromise. I needed to ventilate my ears, but at the same time needed to hear in order to function and work. “It was very distressing. Ear infections plagued my life and would last for up to 12 weeks at a time. They caused discomfort and stress,” he added. Lyn, Tim’s wife and a former head-teacher said: “He would stress if we went to a restaurant. “He would want to find a seat with a wall behind so that noise wasn’t coming at him from all directions and he’d struggle to hear at the theatre or cinema. “He’d quite often be irritable, quiet and snap back and ask to leave early when we went out,” she said.
But, in 2001 things took a turn for the better when Tim found out about the Cochlear Baha.
He underwent surgery to have the device inserted, the technology uses the body’s natural ability to send sound through the bone, bypassing the damaged outer and middle ear, directly to the inner ear. Quite simply, it gave him back his hearing and eight years later, in 2009, Tim was fortunate enough to be one of the few people to be fitted with a second Baha on the NHS, giving him bilateral hearing and a further boost in confidence. “It was then that he really began taking life by the horns,” said Lyn. Ear infections now a thing of the past, Tim became much happier particularly with his image and has become more daring in his fashion sense, with red trousers featuring for the first time in his wardrobe.
Tim said: “Now 18 years later I am over two stone lighter, enjoy hiking and cycling and my drinking is under control to just one or two times a week. “Because I no longer wear hearing aids, I am no longer seen as a deaf person. People now think that the Baha is something to do with a mobile phone or Bluetooth,” said Tim. “I’m seen now as a cool person with the latest technology rather than an old person with a hearing aid. I suddenly became cool in my 50s. “I was also no longer defined by my hearing aids. I became suddenly more confident and outgoing. I took on greater challenges at work and was promoted. I began socialising with colleagues and became a much nicer person, no longer snapping and joining in socially much more.”
The couple moved from Doncaster to enjoy retirement in a one-bed Harbourside apartment in Bristol overlooking the Floating Harbour in September 2013, bringing them closer to their mothers.
They started to enjoy date nights, weekly trips to the cinema and regular dinner parties with friends. I’m not sure I would have taken the plunge moving to Bristol without the confidence I now have to make new friends and fit in and I don’t think as a couple we would be as happy as we are now,” said Tim.
Tim said he has rediscovered music and discovered the world of Podcasts which he can stream from his iPhone to his hearing device. More recently, Tim upgraded to the Baha® 5 Power sound processor in each ear, with an accompanying mini mic and TV streamer. Since the upgrade he has been able to confidently take calls on his mobile phone, listen and play music, enjoy television with his wife Lyn and be more relaxed socially. A fun benefit is people can talk to Tim through the mic at some distance across the room. “If I’m at the bar and Lyn wants to change her drink order she just has to speak into the mic,” said Tim. And television, something Tim also avoided before, because he didn’t want to be annoying using subtitles or put the volume up too high - has become a fun pastime. “We watch programmes at our own volumes simultaneously. The TV streamer is the solution to the harmony of my marriage,” Tim laughs. “This new technology has made me glad I’m alive,” he added. Lyn agreed: “Life has become fun again with Tim. If you’re living with a disability, the impact on everybody around you is considerable. To anyone thinking of having surgery for an implant, I’d say go for it,” she said. The SoundArc wasn’t around when Tim was thinking of having a Baha and has only just become available on the NHS. Cochlear has recently introduced the SoundArc device which allows people to try out Baha technology without surgery.