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).

MelMcMullens mum

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)

Slam-dunking deaf basketball with my new Nucleus® 6

People say Asia is busy, and since returning home from competing in Taiwan at the World Deaf Basketball Championships, I can safely agree. The people on motor scooters, which outnumber the cars, constantly speed back and forth in the humid weather making it a sweltering experience just to walk to the nearest 7/11 shop to buy water. Nevertheless it was amazing to represent and help lead the Deaf Australian Basketball Team and finish 9th in the world. This improved our previous ranking of 13th in the world.

Photo: VIcki Corrigan
Photo: VIcki Corrigan

We completed the tournament with a 3-2 win loss record beating Poland, Japan and Taipei only falling to Greece and USA. Before the games even started it was heartbreaking to see a teammate and close friend go down with a catastrophic ankle injury in the 2nd last training session before the games commenced. It’s crazy for me to think that I only found out about deaf basketball six years ago and since then, I’ve been overseas three times, met my best mates, and have become the person that I am today.

Cochlear 4_Blog 2_ VIcki Corrigan
Photo: VIcki Corrigan

I’ve just been upgraded from my Freedom® sound processor to the Cochlear™ Nucleus® 6 (CP910), and I am just getting used to all the changes and differences between the two sound processors. One massive change for me is no longer having to constantly source disposable batteries to power my implant as the new Nucleus 6 relies on rechargeable batteries that last 8 hours each (for me) and are easy to swap. A great move as I don’t want to think about the effect on the environment that all my flat disposable batteries have had. Also, the new device is more “sweat proof” than my last, but the real test will come in summer when the weather is humid. I can’t wait to get my hands on the Cochlear™ Wireless Accessories to use at work, when training and around the house. I am most keen for the Phone Clip that can be used to play music wirelessly via bluetooth. I have been waiting too long for the day when I can simply stream my music via my phone to my processor so that I can listen to some beats whilst training. Thanks to the Phone Clip, this is now possible!

Since getting back from Taiwan, I have been busy at work managing Melbourne’s Hear for You program, which mentors deaf and hard of hearing high school students. It has just wrapped up its final workshop for the oral program and about to commence its Auslan program (Australian Sign Language). At the same time I have just recently started two more part time jobs giving me a full time work schedule keeping me busy for the time being. Some may say that I am working too much at the moment, but the way I see it is if the work is for something that you are passionate about, it will be worth it. I’ll talk more about my two new jobs next time!

As for the National Deaf Basketball Team, “The Goannas”, we are now getting prepared for the Asia Pacific Deaf Games also being held in Taiwan from the 3rd-11th of October where we have our eyes firmly locked on the Gold medal.

Photo: VIcki Corrigan
Photo: VIcki Corrigan

Sam Cartledge

Melinda Vernon’s latest win

From Melinda…

It’s been a few weeks since my last post, and there have been many exciting things happening behind the scenes with my Cochlear™ Implant! I would love to share some pretty special and ground-breaking news… I have access to Cochlear’s latest technology and have finally upgraded my Freedom® sound processor to Nucleus® 6! I have been using the Cochlear Wireless Phone Clip and the Aqua+ waterproof casing as well.

When I heard the news that my generation of Cochlear recipients were eligible to get the upgrade to the Nucleus 6 model, I started thinking of all the new opportunities and experiences I will have from that day forward! Life was certainly about to get a whole lot easier and definitely more interesting! I couldn’t wait! #pumped

Photo Kevin Koresky training San Diego Feb 14.11

I got the upgrade (thanks to Audiologist Sarah at Sydney Cochlear Implant Centre, for making the process a smooth one!). When I was first “switched on” I was instantly amazed at how much clearer it sounded in comparison to the Freedom model. I don’t really like loud noises and can get quite overwhelmed and stressed out; but the Nucleus 6 gave me that much needed relief with a quieter sound cutting out a lot of the previously interfering background noise. I had peace at last! I was lucky to try out the Phone Clip which pairs and connects to your smartphone, enabling wireless and automatic connection to the phone when someone calls or when you call someone. It was so amazing being able to hear my sister’s voice so clearly on the phone through my Nucleus 6 processor.

Playing my iPhone music through the Phone Clip is so cool, I don’t have to worry about all the cords such as with the telecoil (which is like ear phones) and I can listen to music without others hearing it ,(in the case I might have poor taste in music!!!)

I started thinking of all the new possibilities that I could put into everyday life with the Nucleus 6 and Wireless Accessories! I could go to the gym, and play my music wirelessly leaving my phone in my bag and not have to listen to some boring pop music (no offence to pop culture!) playing over and over on the radio in the gym!

Thanks for reading,

Mel.

Letting go and letting him.

The hall is lined with a super warm sleeping bag, a comfy mattress, a bag stuffed full of warm clothes, then a smaller bag that, to me, is the most important of them all – the bag containing Isaac’s Cochlear™ parts and accessories.

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This is the moment that I’d hoped for but am not ready to let happen. This was it, the plan we had as parents. We wanted Isaac to have the same opportunities in life as his three older brothers. The long weekend here in Melbourne hosts the sporting event: “State Youth Games” that my older boys have participated in with not much thought from me. This time is different – but is it?

Isaac is fully independent. He’s able to listen well, assess situations and is part of anything he wishes (all true in my mind). Then I think about the mud, the rain, the games, the … the fact that I’m not with him.

My need to worry is diminished by the Mini Mic and the Aqua+ accessory If it pours with rain (as it tends to do on these camps) Isaac can still participate in the sports without having to be embarrassed by leaving the field. The Mini Mic reassures me that he can be communicated with and hear the calls of the referees and leaders.

So, really what am I concerned about? The fact that my boy is growing up? The fact that he no longer needs me like he used to? I know Cochlear have provided him the very best potential for a wonderful life, and we have skilled him as much as we can as parents, so he can truly live life to the fullest.

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Isaac (middle) with his brothers.

So, it’s a coffee for me, and preparing the laundry for his muddy return and just being grateful that the journey has been all we’d hoped for and worked towards.

Funny, the only concern for Isaac is that he gets the mandatory designer hoodie that comes with those who participate in the events.

So chill out Mum and enjoy the peace of a quiet home for the weekend.

From Mel M.

Cricket, hearing and hilarity with Lance Cairns

By the mid 1970’s I was playing cricket fulltime, whether it was 1st class representing New Zealand or playing as a club pro in the United Kingdom. Hearing problems were starting to arise but I wasn’t too concerned… After all, I was playing sport for a living and the hearing thing was not really a big issue.

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In the early days representing NZ, the match payments were shocking. Then Kerry Packer came on the scene and introduced the new game, 50 over cricket. He gave us coloured clothing to wear, we played with a white ball and half the game was played at night under lights. A brilliant change to sell to the public and boy, did they love it! Here in NZ the players soon became household names, especially with the stay at home housewives. They loved the idea they could switch the television on just after lunch and watch this new game. Lots of husbands would arrive home to no tea (dinner) on the table as the wife was too caught up in the game.

The match fees certainly made it worthwhile to be involved. Australia introduced a tri-series which in the early days involved Australia and New Zealand and one of the other test playing nations. This meant for a number of years we had to spend Christmas in Oz. One of our team priorities for this was to hold Christmas lunch where all the team members would receive a little gift. John Wright was always the MC and when your name was called you went up to the front and got your pressie. He would call my name out very softly, then again a little louder and the third time he would scream my name out as loud as he could. Up I go to get my gift and have to unwrap it in front of the guys – two very large plastic ears which of course I had to put on and wear them for the rest of the function. When we finished I had to hand my gift back in and I was given these ears for about 4 Christmases in a row…The boys found this pretty humorous, which I didn’t mind as it was just the boys having a bit of fun.

Lance Cairns- The-benson-hedges-world-series. Photo courtesy of Sports World Cards
Lance Cairns- The-benson-hedges-world-series. Photo courtesy of Sports World Cards

During this time the Oz and Kiwi boys got pretty close as we were playing against each other so often. Drinks in each other’s change rooms were compulsory after a match and the sessions we had in the Aussie’s room at the S.C.G. were legendary. Doug Walters who started out as a Rothmans representative and later became a Tooheys representative, installed a huge fridge on the back wall of the home dressing room at the S.C.G. which of course, was stocked with Tooheys products the following year and he had installed another huge fridge on the back wall. We always made sure the fridges were empty before we left the ground.

I had an interesting experience one time at the M.C.G. A part of the ground is called Bay 13 and this area attracts the more vocal patrons and maybe a few more ruffians who like to give the fielder near them a pretty torrid time vocally. Because of my hearing, I was always allocated this area to go and field in as they could scream blue murder at me and I wouldn’t take any notice… except once when I heard this female voice calling out “sign please!” I turned around to sign her book, but no book in hand… just her chest. Of course I signed it.

Cheers Lance.

Isabelle is loving life, and those in it.

Graeme Clark Scholarship winner, Isabelle on family and friends,

I would not be where I am without the amazing support of my family and friends. Growing up with a Cochlear™ implant became the norm for my older sister, my parents and myself. There were moments when my father forgot who was the deaf child in the family, picking up my sound processor, saying: “Whose is this?”

Having a Cochlear implant comes with the responsibility of remembering to take batteries everywhere. My family would always leave the house asking me the same question: “Do you have batteries with you?” I often remember to bring batteries with me, or may have spare ones in the car or my handbag, but there have been many occasions where I have forgotten them. This included Christmas Day, leaving me with no option but to not hear all day. I could not help myself but laugh. After all I just relaxed on a pool floaty in the water sunbaking in silence.

Cochlear Implants
Isabelle with her family – Isabelle on left.

I have the option to switch on and off my Cochlear implant, which is a great advantage for me, and not so much for my family… particularly for my sister. When my sister and I were in a fight, I would turn off my processor and just walk away so I do not have to listen to her angry voice. This made her furious. Or I would trick her, and act as if I have turned it off when really I haven’t. You could say I was quite a sneaky child. But, I don’t do this anymore.

Might be something I’ll do to my future husband though… watch out.

Even when travelling on the bus to work or uni, people would listen to music while I choose to listen to silence. It’s nice having a choice.

Growing up, I have made some wonderful friends who make me smile and laugh, and make me feel very comfortable with myself. They are very considerate by repeating if I hadn’t heard something said. They ensure that I am sitting on the right side of the table so my Cochlear implant is closest to them, allowing me to hear better. Even when walking, my best friend makes sure that she is on my left side, it has become such a habit for her that she even walks on the left side of her friends who have normal hearing.

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As my current sound processor (which is the Freedom®) is not waterproof, when I go to the beach I have it take it off. This is not an issue as luckily I have learnt to lip read. Last month when I was in the Caribbean Sea with my best friend, we had no trouble having a conversation in the water. But she says that she often forgot I couldn’t hear and continued talking to me when I wasn’t facing her or was underwater.

But yes, when I am at a restaurant or at a party, it can be difficult hearing conversation, and it can get frustrating. Although I think how blessed I am to have a Cochlear implant in the first place. I have definitely learnt that those who are willing to help you, are those who are worth having in your life. I do not surround myself with people who are not willing to help me. I am forever grateful to those who are part of my life.

Melinda V. on coping in the classroom

From Melinda…

I hope this next post gives you some insight into what it’s like being deaf with a Cochlear™ Implant within the school environment so you can become more aware of this amazing technology and how to implement strategies if you are a fellow implantee like me 🙂

I went to mainstream primary and high school during my schooling years, it was a challenge for me, but I am a stronger person for it. I was lucky to have such supportive teachers as well as fantastic itinerant teachers (extra support teachers to assist and improve on any difficulties the person is having within the learning environment – particularly literary such as vocabulary). I couldn’t have completed school without them.

One of my teachers had a profound impact on me, instilling in me that I could be or do anything I wanted in life whether it’s life in general, academically or on the sporting field. She was once nominated for an American Teacher’s Excellence Award before she moved to Australia, so I was super lucky to partner with her from Grade 6 to 12. She taught me to be more assertive in the classroom and advocated for my rights to be able to learn without having underlying barriers such as requesting for the provision of captioned videos/ DVDs. My long-term itinerant teacher has paved the way for my future by instilling confidence and determination into my life so that I can better handle future situations.

In conjunction, throughout my high school years, the Cochlear™ implant technology went through some amazing and ground-breaking changes including downsizing from the speech processor box and ear piece to being just all behind-the-ear! It was pure freedom for us implantees who were now able to participate in sports without risking damage to the processor.

Can you imagine what it was like to lug a small box with wire going to our ear everyday? We weren’t allowed to play contact sports and people would look at us weirdly wondering why we have this wire coming from our pockets or back (I wore mine like a little backpack underneath my uniform/ t-shirt) to our ear! Perhaps they thought it was like a cool new music headphone invention! Or perhaps they thought we were aliens from outer space! But regardless, we were still lucky to be hearing with the speech processor no matter what it looked like at the time!

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The release of the behind-the-ear Nucleus® ESPrit speech processor came at the absolute best time for me – I was in Grade 8 (around 14 years old) where body image and fashion was of utmost importance on any teenage girl’s mind, so I was able to finally go shopping and get some cool dresses without worrying about the bump (speech processor) on my back or the dangling cords! It also gave me better self-esteem and body image to not worry about what people think of my appearance, even better, the behind the ear processor made me feel proud and want to embrace the hearing device more so!

Cochlear Implants, Esprit, Sprint

This current generation of implantees should be proud to wear the new Nucleus® 6 processor with its pretty cool technology including being water proof, better sound quality (they can hear better then me!), eliminating background noises in noisy environments or when talking on the phone or when in group conversations – too good to be true? But wait there’s more… it can also enable us to listen to music on our iPods as loud as possible without making a noise to the outside world (like a sound proof room!) and there’s a hearing loop so we can focus hearing to the radio/ TV/ internet clips/ cinemas/ phone through the use of wireless/ Bluetooth technology.

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Perhaps this might appeal to the hearing population as well?!😆

Sorry to cut this short! But getting back to the real focus now! Here are 3 top tips/ advice for implantees/ teachers/ students or anyone really, on how to cope within the classroom environment (only a few but I’ll add more throughout my future posts):

  •  Be assertive: The only way you are going to learn on an even playing field is by being assertive. Educate and let your teachers know of your hearing impairment – teach them deaf-awareness as you are the only one that knows what you need to enable the best learning environment and engagement in the classroom. For example, there are many teachers that speak with their back to the class while writing on the blackboard/ whiteboard – we need teachers to be facing the class when they talk. Some also mumble quite a bit (especially us Australians – I’m sorry in advance, but many of us are lazy when it comes to using our mouths properly when we talk!), so ensure they are always speaking clearly (doesn’t have to be loudly either as we can hear you perfectly fine – just speak clearer with better use of your mouth when talking! 😁).
  • Peer Groups: Don’t be afraid to ask again or repeat what the conversation was about – we may have difficulties trying to listen in on a convo if we don’t know what it was about initially. But once we know what the topic is about, we are all good! And please – never tell us the 2 dreaded words we hate to hear: ” Never mind” – it’s definitely not cool being told that! This pretty much tells us that we are excluded from the group convo or topic.
  • Make the most of your implant: Implantees – make sure you really know how to make the most of your implant, such as changing the settings for different environments (Nucleus® 6 users, your processors do this automatically) such as background mode for noisy environments, use of hearing loop when watching DVDs in classroom, tuning into speech mode so we can focus our hearing into what the teacher is saying, wear a sweat band when playing contact/ land sports to protect it from contact/ sweat damage, and wear the Aqua-Accessory (or Aqua+ for Nucleus 5 or 6 users) if you have school sports involving water sports.

I will certainly share more tips and advice through my future posts, so stay tuned for the next one!

Hope you enjoyed reading and I hope you’ll also get to know us a bit better from a deaf perspective over these posts 😉😎

Until next time 🙂

Mel

On the road to the Paralympics

Hi, my name is Amanda Cameron and I have just celebrated 15 years with my first Cochlear™ implant. My second one is 5 1/2 years old and I love them both, I don’t know where I would be today without them.

I was born profoundly deaf, I was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome type 1 when I was a bit older, which means deafness and retinitis pigmentosa (slowly deteriorating vision). At the moment I have 20 degrees vision and it’s basically no peripheral vision and I see through a tunnel.

I got my first implant when I was 11. I remember the day of switch-on and it wasn’t a particularly happy day for me. I thought everything sounded awful and it was just a whole lot of beeping and everything sounding the same. However, the first morning with my processor on, I kept hearing these really annoying consistent sounds so I grumpily asked my parents “What is that noise?” They were really amazed and told me it was birds singing which I had never heard before.

It probably took a good few weeks to adjust to the new sounds but after then I was back to normal routine, except with better hearing. I went to mainstream school, continued in my ballet and occasionally went back up to the hearing clinic for re-mapping. It wasn’t always easy but it does get quicker and you learn lots – what used to be an hour and half session with the audiologist now only takes 20 minutes.

I finished school and made the big move down to Wellington to study Architecture. A few years later, I decided I wanted a second implant, reason being I wanted to hear more especially with my deteriorating vision. I thought one was great, but I wanted to be more independent and secure because I have no idea what the future holds for me. I was very fortunate to be able to go private this time, and went for a second implant.

The second time around wasn’t as easy, as I was transiting from no hearing to an implant, whereas the first time around, I wore hearing aids right up to the surgery. It’s still not as great as the first one but I have noticed a definite improvement in having two implants. I wouldn’t change it for anything now!

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I am even representing NZ in sport, and it wouldn’t be the case without my Cochlear™ implants. I race on a tandem bike under the blind/vision impaired category, with a sighted pilot, and communication between the pilot and myself (the stoker) is paramount for good results in training and racing.

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I was never very sporty growing up even though I was always involved in something, I did ballet for 10 years when I was young. I played team sport including netball, soccer, tennis and badminton before I gave it up due to lack of peripheral vision and then I just kept fit by running and occasionally swimming and gym work.

It wasn’t till nearly 2 years ago when I was watching Attitude TV (a documentary series every Sunday morning featuring disabled people and their lives) when I became really inspired by other disabled people in sport, one striking me in particular. That was Mary Fisher, a blind swimmer and a world champion.

It made me crave a challenge and something I could do for myself. I got in contact with Paralympics NZ, who introduced me to tandem cycling. At first I scoffed at the idea and thought the idea of me cycling was ridiculous. But I had asked for a challenge and I am not one to give up so here we go.

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I began a training programme, attended a camp and began competing nationally and internationally. I am not a natural at my sport or the best, but I train and work hard and today I’m in the Academy Squad. My pilot, Hannah and I are currently striving for Podium Squad as we continue our journey to Rio 2016.

Isaac’s ‘Silent Night’ turns around

So, who am I? Why am I so keen to tell the world about how a Cochlear™ Implant has changed what my family’s life could have been?

Let me tell you: I am Mel, a mum of four boys, all of them so beautiful and a gift to the world in their own ways.

My youngest son is profoundly deaf and that is where this story begins.

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Back in 2002, our family was completed with the arrival of our Isaac. He was perfect. He looked so much just like my other three sons. There was nothing spectacular about his arrival apart from the surprise of a fourth boy. He was a quieter baby, who wanted more cuddles and seemed to settle far more being with me, which I totally adored.

In this stage of our lives we owned a ’fine dining’ restaurant.  It was a noisy environment.  Two kitchens, five chefs and plenty of floor staff making it a busy place. There were no quiet spot in the building for a newborn baby.

Isaac slept while many loud bangs and crashes surrounded him. They should have disturbed him whilst he slept, but didn’t. Deep inside I knew there was something wrong, even after our health centre nurse had assured me Isaac was fine, just different to my other babies. I had that nagging feeling that haunted me.

A loud suction snapped off as I pulled the ducted vacuum hose off the port. It was so loud it startled me, but my precious little boy stayed sound asleep right beside me. That nagging feeling had surfaced to a point of truth for me in that moment.

Christmas Eve 2002 will stay embedded in my mind and heart forever. I can still feel those emotions well up when I think about that day. The sounds of Christmas carols wafted over the room as I nervously sat with my mother, and my baby son on my knee in a small waiting room in a nearby audiology clinic. In the testing room puppets turned in an abstract box as each beep sound filled the room. Louder and louder they got. My mum and I were given headphones to protect our hearing, my baby wasn’t. He was not bothered by the noises at all. A growing discomfort sat in my gut. I wanted to run and not face what I’d feared to be true. And it was confirmed. “Your son is profoundly deaf, he may need a cochlear implant”. The audiologist stated it in a monotone voice as if it was just a fact. He then dismissed himself, pointed to the reception desk and left for the office festive celebrations to finish off his day. Merry Christmas!

What is Christmas? In a nut-shell it’s noise, it’s songs, it’s family laughing over silly bon bon jokes – none  of that audible at all to my 7 month old baby. I wanted to scream to the world that it was indeed truly a ’Silent Night’ for us.

It was my worst Christmas ever! This is the time of year I’d normally anticipate for weeks ahead with child-like delight. I’d wake up early to beat the children, drinking the milk and eating the cookies left for Santa. I’d play ever so loudly The Wiggles’ ’Santa Claus is coming’ just to excite them and see their faces glow with pure joy.Not so that year.

February 2004, after much testing and a deep desire to have our child implanted, Isaac was given a date for his operation. He was the first to be implanted at the Royal  Children’s Hospital Melbourne. The wheels of life were about to turn.

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It was a beautiful warm, sunny day, fitting for the excitement we felt. The time had come with mixed emotions of anticipation and nerves. We placed a stuffed toy horse in Isaac’s arms as he was wheeled into the stark white operating theatre, the last attempt to make Isaac feel comforted.

“He’ll be ok. He’s in good hands,” I repeated to myself as the seemingly oversized doors closed and blocked the view to my baby being wheeled away.  He had so many in that room with him; doctors, nurses, surgeons. Being the first implanted at that hospital had attracted quite a following. The operation took over three hours. I can tell you there were plenty of cups of coffee drunk in that time. It felt like the longest wait ever!

Two weeks later, again I found myself in a familiar setting; in a room with puppets in abstract boxes.  This time it was a toucan swinging around as the beeps were presented. This time Isaac could hear them! This time it was a room of hope as I watched my little man’s face light up with delight. He could hear the same level as I could! he smiled, he giggled at each new beep, he loved to hear and wanted more and more. The Cochlear implant that sat on his little ear was the gift to his future, of sounds, of words. It was a gift of love to my boy. This time it was tears of overwhelming joy and thankfulness, not despair and shock!

Over the next six months Isaac learnt to speak over 100 words. He even said “mum” – my favourite word of all. He was growing and becoming so confident in his responses to others. Learning sound through him was amazing. It made me look at life in a new and simple way. Each sound had a place, a feeling and a reason. I’m thankful for that chance to discover life in language with Isaac.

Looking back at the contrast in emotions, I can honestly say my joy hasn’t wavered since the switch-on day. We dared to dream and hope. We strived to give Isaac the same in life as our other three sons. We were never let down.

Isaac is now 13 and attends a private school in Melbourne (he is in year 7). Both his primary and secondary education were/are in a non-hearing unit setting. He has caught up and exceeded the expectations of not only us, his parents, but also those of the schooling system. He’s addressed politicians, achieved high grades, sung at events, been in gifted programs, learnt musical instruments – but  most of all, he can communicate with anyone he chooses to and has choices in his life which were not possible before his implant.

Issac has achieved so much in his short life so far. Join me on our journey of Isaac’s little gains and big wins, each steps in life which are great gains.

As you can see I’m just a proud mum …

An unexpected hearing journey… by Lance Cairns

Meet Lance Cairns – Former New Zealand Cricketer

Lance Cairns w sibling Isla and Aaron_ Hearing House clients _ Photo Moira Blincoe
Lance Cairns with siblings Isla and Aaron – Hearing House clients. Photo Moira Blincoe

I am the second eldest of five boys raised by a single mum in the ‘50s in Picton, a small town at the top of the south island, later well known as the berth for the inter island ferries.

I had no issues with hearing growing up, the best indicator of this would be my school work in primary school. I did very well learning wise.

High school was in Blenheim which meant a train trip of 40-50 minutes leaving the station at 8am, this meant I had a walk of nearly 2 miles to catch the train every morning. I ended up wagging more than attending and became very good at forging mum’s signature on the absentee notes!

Sport was always there and rest assured I was on hand when the Firsts had a game on.

I was making a name for myself in those early days in a couple of sports, hockey and cricket. Hockey and cricket were played on the same ground and this was about 100 yards from home. Played rep hockey for the men’s team at the age of 13 and for the top cricket team at the age of 15.

The day I turned 15 it was goodbye to school. Family wise it was always a big struggle financially so if I could earn a wage that was what I was going to do as soon as possible. It was off to the freezing works which, along with the railways solved Picton’s employment issues. After a couple of years work mum noticed that I was asking her to repeat herself too often but nothing was done at this time.

Lance Cairns

The big one that made me realise there was a problem was at the age of 23, when I had just made the New Zealand cricket team, Lindsay Yeo from the 2ZB radio station in Wellington wanted me to take part in a live quiz, which was to be done by telephone. This freaked me out, being live on air and realising I could stuff it up by not hearing what the questions were. I got through it, but it highlighted that I needed to say goodbye to the telephone.

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A fact here is that my son Christopher and I had our first chat on a telephone when he was 40. The first thing he wanted to do when I came out of theatre after being implanted was to give me a ring, but I told him a little patience was required. He made sure he was the first to call when I was finally turned on.

My hearing loss could be traced to those early days in the works. Beside me where I worked they washed the carcases by hose and the water was forced out of the hose by air pressure creating a loud hissing noise. Ear muffs were not heard of in those days.

To be continued.