It was not until I was five years old that my family became aware that I had a slight hearing problem. My GP put this down to a bad case of measles and I got on with life.
I managed at school most of the time by sitting at the front of the class and copying friends’ notes from time to time. By the time I reached GCSEs I had hearing aids fitted and although I went on to university, I was beginning to struggle more, especially when socialising in groups.
Then in 1997, I became very ill and was diagnosed with Epstein Syndrome – a disease which includes kidney failure as well as hearing loss.
I was on dialysis for five years and avoided thinking about my hearing issues until after I had a kidney transplant in 2002. I tried to go back on my social work diploma course but my hearing had got worse and I had to give up. It was then I was referred to an ENT clinic and discovered that I was profoundly deaf and had been getting by for many years through lip-reading alone.
A new beginning
When the time came to choose my implant system, the Nucleus® 5 with remote assistant was available and I decided to be fitted with this. Four weeks after the operation, I was switched on and I felt both scared and excited. After a bit of a screechy noise in my ear, I could hear my husband and the audiologist and it was surreal. On the way home, when my husband used his mobile in-car speaker phone I could hear the phone ring and I could hear my dad say ‘hello’. I cried with happiness as I hadn’t heard his voice in years and although I couldn’t hear all the conversation it was a start.
It took a few visits to the clinic for the sound processor to be programmed and understanding people’s voices took a little longer and needed concentration. I’ve found the remote assistant very easy and I use it to change programmes in particularly noisy situations or at a concert.
The impact of the cochlear implant on my life
The biggest impact the implant has had on my life is that my confidence and independence have finally come back. I don’t have to rely on other people to speak for me and I can enjoy family and social gatherings again. At work I don’t have to rely on a note taker anymore and I can play a part in team meetings as I’m not one step behind all the time. I only wish I’d known about cochlear implants sooner as mine has totally transformed my life. Waking up every day being part of the hearing world again is so precious.
Being a Volunteer Advocate
I wanted to become a Volunteer Advocate to give something back to the clinic and to help those, who like me, are perhaps apprehensive at starting the process. When I was having my implant I spoke with a lady who already had a cochlear implant and that really helped me as I was quite nervous about the surgery.
I’ve found that people who have contacted me have lots of questions that are similar to those I once asked. Others like to talk to me after the operation and share the wonders of hearing simple sounds again. It is helping people and sharing these special moments that make being a Volunteer Advocate so fulfilling.
Lynne lives in Hillsborough, County Down, Northern Ireland. She was implanted at Belfast Cochlear Implant Centre in September 2009.
If you are considering an implant and seeking advice, or would like to learn practical day-to-day tips...
Cochlear Advocacy Manager, Kate King can connect you with an advocate who has first-hand experience of living with a Nucleus® cochlear implant or Baha® System.
Sharing stories with others will help you understand what to expect. To contact Kate, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.