Amanda’s now on the fast track

Since my last blog post, the road season has closed and I’ve changed to track cycling. I tried it for the first time only a few days before we were due to race in a track event. My pilot, Hannah, was already experienced, but only on a single bike, so we were both really excited to give track tandem riding a go!

I pretty much fell in love with it straight away and managed to quickly pick up what to do or not to do. For example, as I can’t see out front I get a bit dizzy, so I learned to fix my focus on Hannah’s back. Listening and being able to hear in track cycling is quite important as you need to hear the start beeps and when the coaches give you your lap times and split laps. Hannah and I are strong starters but we realised there was a slight delay between the two of our starts as I would watch her and move when she did. So it was (and still is) critical for me to listen to the countdown myself. With some practice I was soon nailing it and starting on time.

There are two events that we race in, which is the kilo and 3km individual pursuit. In the pursuit, which is 12 laps, one coach tells us how many laps there is to go, and a second coach tells us how long our lap was as we have to aim for a specific time per lap otherwise we might go too fast too soon or too slow. I have had issues with hearing them clearly at times because the aero helmets that we wear covers the microphone of the processors. Wearing the Cochlear™ Wireless Mini Mic is useful – the only issue is distance and static but we will play around with it some more. In the meantime we are looking at the helmet to see if we can adjust the inner shell. No matter the barrier, there is always a way to overcome them.

Anyway back to that first track event! Considering we had not trained specifically for track and with only a few hours of track riding under my belt, we did really well and I loved every moment of it. Half of it was due to knowing I was overcoming challenges not just as a para-athlete but by also having a hearing loss on top of it and being able to do well made me proud of myself.

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I then decided to train for the upcoming track Nationals less than two months later with the goal of PBs with the same pilot. It is never easy training over summer when you go away visiting family, or on holiday for Christmas and New Year, but I was determined to get really good at track cycling so I lugged my bike home to my parents and kept up my training. I had a couple of days off while my family and I went camping with friends at the lake. It was relaxing. I even got to try out paddle boarding which was really fun! I don’t have the Cochlear™ Aqua+ accessory covers so I had to take off my processors, which was a little frustrating but the Aqua+ is on my wish list now!

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In February, the track Nationals rolled around and Hannah and I competed in the kilo representing Wellington. We were nervous but we shaved two seconds off our previous time and achieved our goal of getting a PB which we’re stoked with. We were going to compete in the pursuit together as well but there was a last minute change so I rode with a different pilot – also named Hannah! We did really well in the pursuit with more PBs.

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Fast forward to less than a month later, I’m now at a training camp as I will be part of the team going to track world champs in Italy next week with Hannah #2 as my pilot. The training is going well and I’m really looking forward to racing at a world class level. There are challenges I’m learning to overcome every day and I love every moment of it – remember there is no such word as ‘can’t’.

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Amanda 🙂

G.Clark Scholarship winner: Changing the ‘old school’

Hi, my name is Philipp Heyn, I’m 22 years old and I am from Germany. I have two Cochlear™ Implants and am currently here in Australia studying for a year. Back home in Germany, I study Special Education in Dortmund. I attended a mainstream school, during which I spent my 11th year at high school in the United States. I started university when I was 19 years old.

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I was born deaf, or as my doctors put it, hard of hearing in a degree close to deafness. I can hear stuff that is louder than 110 decibels, which basically means nothing. Apparently, the little hair cells in my cochlea are way too short to process sounds within the normal decibel range. Because my parents were worried that I wasn’t responding when they talked to me, my dad put me in front of the stereo and started turning the volume up, until he couldn’t stand the noise anymore. I was still giggling and not taking any notice at all. That was the point when my parents found out that I had a hearing problem, which lead to me getting my first hearing aid within three months. This was very early for “my” time. I did not have any problems learning speech and so I never had to use sign language. When I was five, my parents decided to have me implanted on my right side, which turned out to be a great success.

CI-Operation November 1999

Later, in 2008, I was implanted on my left side, the Cochlear ear had become so dominant that my left ear just kind of fell asleep over time.

I started studying Special Education because I felt my high school was unprepared when I attended it. Most teachers didn’t understand how to teach a deaf child and I wasn’t confident about my hearing so I didn’t tell anyone I had a hearing problem. I would not say that I had a bad time at school, but I want some things to change and I thought my best chance of doing this would be to work in the business that is closest to the issue – Special Education. At Uni, I started volunteering as part of a team that helps people with disabilities who are studying. This and much more voluntary work is probably what enabled me to win the Graeme Clark Scholarship from Cochlear, making it possible for me to leave Germany and study in Australia for a year. I have been in Australia for seven months now and there are seven more to go!

Cheers, Phil

‘Liam the Superhero’ creates worldwide interest

The Cochlear Kids: Liam the Superhero is a new children’s picture book from author (and mum to Cochlear recipient) Heidi Dredge. It is a fun, informative and inspirational story about a boy with Cochlear™ implants. Here, Heidi shares why she wrote the book and what she hopes it can achieve.

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Creating The Cochlear Kids series of books has been a labour of love, a work of joy, and a celebration of my own daughter, Zia, who received a Cochlear™ implant when she was just a baby. When I went searching for children’s books to teach Zia about her hearing loss, I found very few available. I felt there was so much that could be told about the incredible journey that children with hearing loss and their families travel from diagnosis, surgery, and switch-on (activation), to the importance and fun of speech therapy, to making hearing devices part of normal life, through to learning to advocate for oneself in the schoolyard. And so I set out to create a series of books featuring a range of different children (each one a “Cochlear Kid”) to tell these stories in an entertaining, uplifting and informative way.

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As the first book in the series, Liam the Superhero explains to readers what a cochlear implant is and how it works. The story is set against the backdrop of four-year-old Liam’s favourite pastime – pretending he’s a superhero.

Liam’s story is written in fun, rhyming prose to appeal to children and adults.

The implant goes inside the ear

in a special operation.

It is put there by a doctor

after much investigation.

It is intended to be a way for young children with hearing loss to learn about their own special ears, and a clear and simple way for family and friends to learn about them too!

The processor has a battery

that needs charging every day.

It powers the cochlear implant

during work, rest and play.

It has proven to be a great resource for classrooms, with families and teachers giving feedback about how Liam the Superhero has raised awareness and understanding of hearing loss, while also providing the children in the class with the right vocabulary to discuss hearing devices.

What you see on the outside

is like a mini computer.

It is called a sound processor

and is pretty super-duper.

Liam’s story is underpinned by an uplifting message that we are all superheroes when we follow our hearts. Each book in the series will offer children and families a moment of inspiration, euphoria and pride that they can recognise in their own hearing loss journey.

 (Liam’s Mum speaking to Liam)

“Every day you are my hero.

You let your heart be your guide.

You let nothing hold you back

and you wear your ears with pride!”

Most importantly though, my aim for the books is to contribute in a positive way to a sense of identity and belonging for children with cochlear implants.

Liam is a Cochlear Kid.

He loves his super ears.

He is so happy and so thankful

for all the sounds he hears.

Zia has connected beautifully with this element of the story. Late last year we were leaving her kinder-ballet class and I told her how much I love to watch her dance, and that I could tell she was doing some really good listening to the teacher’s instructions. To this she replied, “But that wasn’t just me Mum. My Cochlear ear helped me … because I’m a Cochlear Kid, like Liam!”

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My hope is for Liam the Superhero, and future books in The Cochlear Kids series, to reach far and wide to raise awareness and understanding of children with hearing loss and cochlear implants, and to have a positive influence on the lives of these amazing children!

 

The Cochlear Kids: Liam the Superhero is available for sale only from www.vividpublishing.com.au/liam

The second book in the series Zara at the Zoo is due for release later this year.

Stay up to date with The Cochlear Kids at www.facebook.com/thecochlearkids

Heidi Dredge can be contacted at thecochlearkids@outlook.com

 

 

 

 

 

A new year, a new ear

Well it is 2016, a fresh new year of new hopes and goals. I have a strong one that I hope to achieve. Last year I made a big decision and decided to get a second Cochlear™ implant. Just before Christmas, Professor Kong operated on me, using the Nucleus CI522 cochlear implant on my right side. I have had my first Cochlear implant on my left ear for 20 years.

I am yet to tell you about my two university exchanges that I was part of in the past two years. Briefly last year I was living in Potsdam, upstate New York studying at Clarkson University for 5 months. It was this adventure that convinced me it was time to get another Cochlear implant. As much as I love meeting and being surrounded by new people, I found this trip particularly challenging, having said that, I still had the time of my life. There was a large group of exchange students at Clarkson with different accents and not everyone knew I was deaf. I struggled to understand what some people were saying and with only having my left implant I could hear someone say my name but didn’t know where the sound was coming from. It is these kinds of situations that are frustrating for me. I lost track of conversations and didn’t approach people as I was worried that I could not hear or understand their accent. I believe it made me appear somewhat shy or quiet. I do not want people to think that of me. Being shy or quiet is not who I am. I am a CONFIDENT person. I want people to see that in me. So there you go, this was the turning point that led me to a second Cochlear implant.

My operation was two and a half hours and took place at the Mater Hospital in Crows Nest. I stayed one night in the hospital. The recovery took longer than I thought, but I assume everyone recovers differently. Unfortunately I had to spend Christmas Day in bed and cancel my New Years Eve road trip to Byron Bay, but I know it will be worth it.

 

My switch on was on the 13th of January this year. Because I knew what to expect from my first implant, it was not as exciting as my first switch on (look at previous post to see YouTube clip of my switch on). I had a low expectation. I thought I would be hearing crackling noises, instead it was beeping noises. It’s hard to explain the process of how to improve my hearing. Friends have asked, how are you hearing? You must be hearing so much better. But that is not the case, not yet. I explain, imagine having new legs and having to walk for the first time, clearly you cannot run a marathon. It is all about taking baby steps. And that’s where I am. Just starting small, listening with the second Cochlear implant alone, reading kids’ books out loud to comprehend the new sounds and match them with the words. Mum and I have been doing homework exercises where she will say two words then repeat one word, I am to recognise which word I believe she said. This process is allowing me to familiarise the new sounds to the words.

So this is my new goal for 2016, to train my brain to interpret the new sounds from the second Cochlear implant.

Thanks for reading!
From Isabelle.

 

Nothing can keep her down!

From Melinda…

So I thought I’d start 2016 recapping the good, the bad and the many things in between of 2015.

It has been one of those years with lots of learning particularly with triathlon, work, and the new Nucleus® 6 upgrade.

This year, I moved to the Gold Coast to start training with the National Performance Centre, under head coach Dan Atkins. The program was hard from the get go and it took me a while to adapt to the intensity! I felt so unfit (however I was coming off an Achilles injury) and my squad mates were like spring chickens, being able to bounce back after each session unlike this old duck!

However, I enjoyed the challenging aspects of training despite my body not agreeing! It took persistence and resiliency and by October I had finally I adapted to the program. Unfortunately, come November, things took a nasty turn…I was involved in a freak bike accident, which cut my 2015 short.

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A novice rider had cut across from the other side of the road without looking behind to see us (bike group) approaching, and I was right at the back of the pack and didn’t get the warning signs until it was too late. I slammed on my brakes to avoid hitting the squad mate in front and went flying off the handlebars, landing hard on my right hand and back. It was such a shock to see my right fingers all dislocated at 90 degrees. I didn’t like the appearance of it so in the adrenaline of the moment, I pushed them back into position (think James Franco in 127 Hours, but in 2 seconds)! After ambulance and hospital check ups, I had been diagnosed with 3 broken fingers and a slight but stable fracture to my spine. From that moment, I knew my season had come to an end, but I was determined to continue training and getting through it to the end of the year. It also meant I was out of action on a working front, being an Occupational Therapist (I work part time in Aged Care) and relying on my hands to treat my clients. On the positive side, it meant more time to fill up with training, rehab and strengthening my way back to former fitness!

I have achieved some good results over this year with triathlon (this year was a rebuilding year coming back from the Achilles injury), when I only raced over 4 times, compared to over 13 times in 2014.

  • April: 4th in Luke Harrop Gold Coast Triathlon (comeback race since Oct 2014)
  • July: 8th in Osaka Asian Cup sprint
  • September: 1st in Murakami Asian Cup Olympic distance (Japan)
  • October: 5th in Nepean Triathlon in a stacked pro field

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I want to thank coach Dan Atkins and Cochlear for this year’s results. They have improved my skills across the three disciplines and the Nucleus 6 processor with Aqua+ has enabled me to hear in the water (swimming sessions) for the first time ever, and train through those hard and sweaty sessions without the worry of sweat damage to the hearing device! These newly developed skills have replaced my toolbox with better quality tools! #upgraded

I was also lucky enough to have access to the AIS performance centre on the Gold Coast and utilise the Alter G (anti-gravity treadmill) while rehabbing from Achilles injury and work with the strength and conditioning staff, dietician and psychologist on site, who have also given me a greater depth of knowledge and development towards my triathlon goals which I will take on board beyond 2015 #thankful

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Also, I have been working with great people behind the scenes, especially over the last few months: Gold Coast Physio and Sports Health (all year!), Gold Coast Triathlete bike shop who have given me excellent service and advice towards my bike and skills. I have also become a part of the Cervélo team’s ambassador program which has been a fantastic incentive to be a part of! I have been working with a great mentor in Peter Robertson who runs Elite Performing Minds, an athlete mentoring program, which has helped me during these challenging times with injury, coaching/ training options and developing a better athlete mindset. Last, but not least, I want to thank Cochlear Asia Pacific for their generous support towards my triathlon career and giving me the opportunity to work with Cochlear Global, Cochlear Japan and participate in various media events over the past year. #backbone #support #unit

I look forward to new beginnings in 2016, to continue chasing my dreams, getting back into hard training and ready to bring the goods come race day along with the support of my crew. As they say, “Bring on #2016!”

Mel 🙂

 

 

Amanda breaks her hearing record!

Hi everyone!

Cochlear Nucleus 6 Blog  It has been a while since my first blog post and so much has happened. I am especially excited to tell you about my recent upgrade to the Cochlear™ Nucleus® 6!

I am still adjusting but so far I really like them. The main difference is the SmartSound® iQ, which manages different types of sound automatically so you don’t have to worry about changing to a different program. The programs you have in older processors (i.e Everyday, Focus, Noise and Music) can now be all automated!

And another pretty cool thing is that it has wind reduction! It is perfect for where I live – Wellington, the windiest city in the Southern Hemisphere. I haven’t had a chance to experiment with it too much as it’s been winter and I haven’t been outside much. I’ll be sure to let you know when I do.

The first week after the upgrade, it felt like I wasn’t hearing a lot and I was missing background information, which was unnerving. All this is normal while you adjust, I have always been used to having background noise so having less of this now takes a bit of getting used to. I did notice, however that I could pick up speech much clearer and easier.

Last weekend I went out for brunch with a good friend of mine, usually I would have some trouble hearing in the café, but I didn’t. It was great! I was picking up on everything she said. Win 🙂

The Nucleus 6 also comes with optional wireless accessories. There is the mini microphone, a TV streamer and a Bluetooth phone clip.

I have the wireless mini mic and let me tell you – it’s amazing! It is so cool to finally not have to wear ‘special’ earphones or hooks when listening to music – this means when I am using the mic, all I need to do is activate streaming on the processor or Remote Assistant/Control and it’ll connect! I have total freedom moving around with no wires or external receivers; you just have to be within seven meters of the MiniMic.

I have tried placing the mic in front of the TV speakers and found the speech clearer; I have listened to music with it plugged into my phone or iPod and I loved it. I have yet to try it in formal situations but I have meetings at work coming up where I will try this, again I’ll keep you posted. Both the remote and the mini mic stays in my handbag all the time as it’s so easy to whip out when I need it. Cool eh?

The Nucleus 6 is a lot smaller than the Freedom® and slightly shorter than the Nucleus 5. I chose a brown processor to match my hair colour but you can also order coloured covers to snap on. I have the pink (this is Barbie pink, guys!), blue, grey smoke and black swirls. I’m going to customise a set to match my NZ kit so I’ll be sure to post this when it’s done!

Cochlear Nucleus 6

I’ll be back soon once I’ve tried out a few more features, but in the meantime if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below.

Amanda 🙂

Keep that sound alive – it’s a family thing.

Being a mum of a deaf child you tend to look at hearing in a different way. I try to guess what type of hearing loss people might have, I also try to anticipate what the audiologist will say to Isaac. This is my way of learning to understand hearing loss and the affect on people. This also passes onto my parents as, hey, it’s my job to keep an eye on them too right?

Learning about hearing loss has caused me to be a “Google Queen” trying to learn as much as I can with both the audiology and technical side of hearing loss so I can make the best and the most informed choices for assisting Isaac. Recently we urged my mother to get her hearing tested, we felt her responses were not as reliable in noisy situations. After some coaxing she agreed- it ended up that she has some hearing issues. She has the same type of loss as Isaac (different underlying cause).

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Coincidently, a cochlear implant for her may be an option in the future. That’s just fine with us…we know what to expect and she would do that in a heartbeat after seeing how amazingly Isaac has taken off with his implant.

I heard that keeping your speech and listening going, with a cochlear implant reduces your chance of dementia and keeps your brain alert and active, amazing hey!

If it’s good enough for Isaac to keep his hearing alive its good enough for us.. Oh and in the interim my mum is getting a hearing aid. We are keeping that sound going.

From Mel (Isaac’s Mum)