Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Story

My name is Robert Dobson, I have severe – profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears. My main form of communication is oral with very basic knowledge of sign language. I was born deaf but was not diagnosed until I was at least 3years old. At that time there was no hearing test for babies so my parents had to work out whether my hyperactive behavior indicated a hearing loss or not. I was fitted with bilateral hearing aids till I was 4 years old.

Throughout my schooling I relied heavily on residual sounds with two hearing aids plus lip-reading. Being in the mainstream in normal hearing classes (primary and secondary) was a challenge. I felt isolated from classroom peers and had support from AVT HI twice a week (Advisory teacher – hearing impairment)

One of the biggest challenges faced in my adulthood is dealing with the demands of the ‘hearing establishment’. Society is organized around hearing people, and major adjustments have to be made for me to confront everyday problems and did that with gusto and bravado .

Going through a university for normal – hearing people required a supreme effort for me and I was very lucky to get support for in the form of note taking and additional support for other areas of study. I graduated with two degrees – Bachelor of teaching and Graduate diploma outdoor education. I have been teaching on a contract / casual basis for 13 years and I teach mainly Physical education and some work as teacher of the deaf. I have recently completed my Graduate certificate in educational studies – hearing impairment from University of Newcastle

Over the last few years I had been hearing about cochlear implants from friends and my interest intensified when the nucleus freedom cochlear implant was introduced. I met with my Ear Specialist Dr Paul Varley and the wonderful audiologists at the South Australian Cochlear Implant Centre (SACIC) and we explored and discussed the benefits a nucleus freedom cochlear implant and what it could do for me.

Given that research and assessment period had demonstrated significant improvement for my hearing needs and communicating with a nucleus freedom cochlear implant I felt that I had nothing to lose but everything to gain. The surgery for the cochlear implant was performed on Tuesday the 19th June, 2007 and on Wednesday 11th July 2007; my CI processor was activated at SACIC.

The moment of truth

All went really well and exceeded my and the audiologist expectations I was overjoyed, my hands were trembling. At first that power surge (switch on) was scary as it sounded like a bunch of Indians going off doing the rain dance.

The very first sounds were like a washing machine. That settled down after 5 minutes. I am able to differentiate different sounds and pitch at various frequencies’ which is an excellent start. Hearing my wife Haze’s and our son’s voice was different – higher pitched than I am used to.

Heard different ( early days ) sounds like paper money rustling , my wife Haze sniffling, hands rubbing on my jeans , able to converse whilst driving home not looking at my wife hazel’s mouth ( no lip reading ) , paper rustling, sound of the keyboard clacking, surprised to hear how noisy having two computers running at the same time and crunching empty bag of chips sounded cool, going to the toilet for a leak ( Niagara falls ) sounded very loud.

Went to a Café Villi's for lunch and found the sound of people chatting to be very noisy was noisy and scrambled the coffee machines were loud as well dirty dishes banging together.

So far I am loving it and exploring more sounds around the universe. I am glad I went ahead with the decision and my hat is off to the bloke that invented the cochlear implant Professor Graham Clark and the hard working audiologist team at SACIC - three cheers for you

Impact of Cochlear Implant

The first thing was I am able to do is to listen not lip read. Scored 98-100% first time on speech recognition and discrimination tests. Prior to the assessment I only scored 0 -1 % with hearing aids on both ears. I have found too that my greatest success with the cochlear implant has been the ability to listen to most the car radio / television / people behind my back / music

Discussed the possibility of getting the right ear implanted ( update - its been done ) – The cost of replacing batteries is expensive but it does not outweigh the joy of getting real hearing back

The main benefits of getting the cochlear implant are restored detection of everyday sounds in the hearing environment, improved face to face communication, the ability to understand speech through hearing alone.

Being able to hear and listen my family with two young boys has been absolutely phenomenal and priceless

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