An Emotional Journey to Bilateral Implants | Part I

Kate is a Cochlear employee and received her first cochlear implant in 2009. She recently decided to go ahead with the second surgery. Why? Because she wanted to hear her children better, be less tired by the end of the day from listening and because the first implant was so incredible and life-changing. The journey was an emotional one and she decided to share it with us, to explain the challenges people may face when deciding to go ahead with their second cochlear implant surgery. This is her journal.

Kate O 2016

23 February 2017: OK, I’m doing this!

So I’ve been considering a second cochlear implant for many years now.

I should be leaping at this thought, like nothing holding me back…. But that’s not the case.

It was only last year – the year my son Arlin started kindergarten – that I realised I was missing words, and finding it hard to hear with just one implanted ear.

I had booked in my CT scan last year (first step before embarking on 2nd CI journey), then cancelled it, because I wasn’t ready. I would do it when things calmed down.
But would they ever calm down?

So I just had it done, lunchtime today – x-ray of the head. This is to check to see that my inner ear is okay, and there are no obstructions to receiving my second implant.

When I got back to work, I snuck a sneaky look at the x-rays in the light at my desk…. And it brought back a flood of memories of that first day in the hospital 7 years ago, after I had my first CI surgery; lying in the bed, head bandaged up; my then-boyfriend (now husband) sitting near me, intrigued by the x-rays. He held them up to the light, and I remember felt slightly sick as I saw the outline of the implant against the side of my skull. It had really happened.

How do I feel today?
Slightly drained, sad and quiet. I am realising I’m about to embark on the same journey I took over 7 years ago. And I’m surprised it’s still an emotional one. I feel like I am going to cry, and I feel like I need a hug.

Why? Well, I am surprised too. I don’t want to have surgery. I don’t want to have to spend time recovering, and be tired for weeks and weeks while I get used to new sounds. I don’t want to have to wait for 2-3 weeks after surgery not hearing anything at all out of that ear, only to maybe find out that it sounds like a vacuum cleaner constantly switched on in my ear, as a recipient once described it to me...

It’s entirely possible I won’t hear well in that deaf ear, ever. It’s a leap of faith, and an unknown. I am a little bit afraid.

I know, deep down, it will be okay. It’s just the enormity of this first step. I realise that even though I am sharing with my family and friends about what I am planning on doing, I am really on my own with this. No one will be able to hear what I am hearing, except me. No one else will know how tired I am at the end of the day, except me. No one else will be able to really understand that anxiety and worry about whether or not I’ll ever hear out of that ear again, except me. There will be supporters all around me, but really it’s going to be up to me how I deal with this, and no one else.

I feel it will take some time to be ready to go on this journey again. From the outside in, it seems so simple. It works. Just get the tests, have the surgery, switch it on. Bam. Done. Good. Great.

But I know that humans are not simple, and neither is this journey.

Writing this is helping me to grapple with all the emotions I have– and helping me to build courage to embark on what I know will be yet another life-changing chapter in my life.

To be continued…

 

Please seek advice from your medical practitioner or health professional about treatments for hearing loss. They will be able to  advise on a suitable solution for the hearing loss condition. All products should be used only as directed by your medical practitioner or health professional. Not all products are available in all countries. Please contact your local Cochlear representatives.

Cochlear, Hear now. And always and elliptical logo are either trademarks or registered trademarks of Cochlear Limited. D1255107 ISS1 JUL17 Cochlear © 2017 All rights reserved.

The Paralympian Experience

It has now been 6 weeks since the closing ceremony at Rio Paralympics, and this seems like the perfect time to write and reflect on the journey up to and including the games. It has been incredible, when people ask me about about it I often find it hard to put it into a few words – but it was amazing, inspirational and definitely worth all the hard work gone into the campaign!

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It has been an incredibly tough year leading up towards the games, but it all seemed to happen so quickly and before I knew it, we were on our way to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.I was definitely very nervous and had a bit of a culture shock when I arrived, but by the time day two rolled, I was getting into the spirit and making the most of the village life. The village was definitely a very lively, atmospheric place, there were 4,333 athletes from 159 countries there – all participating in 22 sports. New Zealand had 31 athletes and only occupied 2 floors (including staff) which doesn’t seem like much compared to countries who would occupy a whole building (i.e. China)! The apartment buildings and landscaping including pools, gardens, etc looked like we were staying at a resort!

The velodrome was decked out in Rio colours, and Hannah and I loved the track. Not all velodromes are shaped the same, but this one had longer straights which was similar to the velodrome we’d raced on in Montichiari, Italy for worlds earlier this year so it felt familiar. We kicked racing off on the second day of the Paralympics with the kilo (also known as the 1km time trial). We were happy to start with that race, as it isn’t a target event but gave us that opportunity to dial in the warm-ups, etc before our target event – 3km individual pursuit which was two days later.

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Our families came to Rio to watch, so before the kilo I was stoked to see them in the crowd – my parents, sister and partner Grant were sitting in the stands along with the other NZ supporters, all with matching t-shirts which looked cool! In the kilo, we came 6th, making a personal best time of 1.11 which we were really happy with. Afterwards, we warmed down and recovered and came back in two days’ time for our big race – the pursuit. I was so nervous, I wanted to cry! In these situations you have to try block out those thoughts and focus on doing your warm-up well and prepare for the race both mentally and physically.

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There is a lot of listening involved in track racing, especially when pursuiting as you have to control your lap times so you can finish well, so in each lap we have a coach call out the times of our laps, we also have a second person call out how many laps we have to go. For a Deaf or hearing impaired person to be able to hear both clearly is a huge ask – especially when wearing an aero helmet that covers the microphones essentially muffling the sounds. But at this time and stage, Cochlear implants are the best possible equipment to help impaired hearing so I already had the best chance I could get. And they definitely did help! First, I listen to the countdown beeps and then the final beep before we start from the gates then I listen for my pilot to instruct me to ‘sit’ after we’ve got the bike up to speed. Then I listen to the lap number call, then straight after that I listen for the lap times – I hear those two in each lap. When we finish, sometimes my pilot will give instructions on when we will stop. We finished the qualifying round with another personal best time of 3.33 and made the bronze finals! We were ecstatic to ranked 4th as it was a very close call with the Irish tandem by milliseconds, however we only had a very short turnaround till our next race – about 2 hours (normally it is about 6 hours). So we recovered as best as we could by refuelling, ice baths, stretching then straight back into the warm-up!

We were up against a GB sprinters tandem who had won gold in the kilo a few days prior, and off we went! Unfortunately for us, they decided to take a tactic strategy and sprint from the gates, catching us by third lap which meant they took bronze and we came fourth. It was devastating for us to miss out on a podium spot but after we got over our loss, we celebrated our 4th placing. To get to the bronze finals at our first Paralympics is a moment I’ll never forget.

We had a few days to rest before re-focusing on road. Even though we haven’t had a lot of focus on road, it was decided we would still race in the road time trial and road race. We finished 9th in the time trial, which was a basic out and back flat course but up against tough competition. Then we had our final race, the road race. It was an exciting race, we threw in a couple attacks from the start, it was an extremely tough course but we did well to finish 11th, just narrowing missing out on 10th. Hannah and I used the Cochlear mini mic2+ during the road race so she could communicate with me which was great, I was able to follow her instructions and we worked really well together on the tandem. It was important to be able to hear her instructions especially when we were attacking at the beginning or when I needed to know if a hill was coming up and how long/far it was to the top, etc. In both road events, we finished with absolutely nothing left – it was incredibly hard racing in the heat but an amazing experience which I’m glad I got to share with my family there supporting us.

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For our final two days at Rio, I spent a little time with my family before they left to go home and also some R&R at the village. The entire NZ team went to the closing ceremony which was amazing, everyone was celebrating the Paralympics and the success of the games in Rio, as well as letting our hair out after long training campaigns. A well-earned fun night out! There was a few speeches and a lot of dancing and music, it was amazing to be able to hear all the sounds pumping around the place.

I’m now home and recovered from an intense year, the Paralympics was a surreal experience and I’m so proud to be called a Paralympian! It was definitely not an easy road but it was worth all the hard work and determination gone into it.

A special thanks to Cochlear for giving me an opportunity to be able to compete at this level, it is still incredible that a small thing as a cochlear implant can open so many doors like it has for me and being able to be a competitive stoker, I’m glad to be able to share my story and hopefully inspire other Cochlear recipients 🙂

‘Til next time,
Amanda

Images supplied by Getty.

Amanda’s cycling to Rio

Hola!
I’m now on my way home after spending 6 days in Spain. We’ve just lifted off Bilbao for Munich then it’ll be two long haul flights back to NZ.
So what was I doing in Spain? To keep a long story short, my reserve pilot Kirstie James needed to race in a UCI para-cycling world cup to be eligible to race at Rio if she was to be called up (ie if my main pilot, Hannah van Kampen gets injured and can’t race with me or if she called up to be a reserve for our another stoker), and the cut-off date to get Kirstie qualified was when the last round of para-cycling world cup was to be on..Cochlear implant recipient, Amanda Cameron. Paralympics

 

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So Stu (coach), Kirstie and I headed to Bilbao, an old city north of Spain near the border so there are mountains surrounding the area which was pretty. It was where the final UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup before Rio was to be held. Exciting!!
As the purpose of the trip was a simple one, it meant the trip would be short as we had a tight turnaround to get back home and focus on training on track (which is my target at Rio). Kirstie and I were due to race in three days after arrival but disaster struck and our luggage didn’t arrive with us! Lucky I always make sure to have everything for few days in my carry-on luggage… Including charged and disposable batteries!)

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It was a nervous wait for us but my single bike and the tandem finally arrived the day before racing. Half our luggage was still missing and it meant we didn’t have wind-trainers, tools or disc wheels but at least we could race.
Despite me not having a lot of focus on road racing, we finished 6th in the 21km time trial and 7th in the 70km road race, both results I’m really pleased with. It was also Kirstie’s first two tandem races after having only taken up piloting little over a month ago.
In between racing, the three of us got to do a little sight seeing and relaxation. Even when you’re busy or anxious, it’s important to take some time out and enjoy the scenery around you. As I’m a nervous person, I often have to be reminded to breathe and be in the moment. This is a cool short clip with captions (only about a minute long) on meditation. This is something I do often, especially when nervous or stressed (like before a race!) but it’s great to do every moment you can.Meditation – The Huffington Post
Anyway, nearly at Munich! I will write another update soon.

Adiós!

From Amanda Cameron.

Megan’s inspiring story

Megan was born profoundly deaf, but that wasn’t going to hold her back from her swimming dreams. Megan swam in the 2000 Paralympics.

Five years ago, Megan received a Cochlear™ implant and now enjoys hearing lots of different types of birds. Megan is also using the True Wireless™ Accessories and is finding her life easier at work and in the pool.

Watch her story here.

Michael travels the world in sound

Your son, Michael, will never be able to hear, speak, or do the things a normal hearing person would do,” my parents were told. I was diagnosed as being profoundly deaf at the age of fifteen months. My world seemed as if it had come to a narrow passage with very limited opportunities. However, it was the beginning of something unforeseen and beyond normal. All future dreams and visions seemed shattered, but they were actually expanding to a whole new dimension a normal-hearing person would never experience.
I was the first child to receive the Cochlear™ Nucleus® 22 Implant in Dallas, Texas, USA at the age of two in 1991, and since then I have thrived in the hearing world thanks to a team of family members, audiologists, auditory-verbal therapists, and Cochlear. I have upgraded multiple times over the years. With each upgrade, I experienced new sounds and adventures. Cochlear technology enabled me to push myself to do more such as appreciate music, talk on the phone, make the high honor roll in school, graduate college, travel, kick start my career, and receive an MBA.
I will celebrate my 25 year anniversary with the Nucleus 22 Implant in June. It has been an incredible journey filled with many “a-ha” and “wow” moments. The very first sound processor I had was the Mini Speech Processor (MSP). It was considered “mini” because the previous generation sound processor (Wearable Speech Processor) was rather quite large by today’s standards. It had a bodyworn processor that rested on my hip and connected to a behind-the-ear microphone via a long cord that ran up from the waist to the ear. The behind-the-ear microphone was about the size of what the Nucleus 6 Sound Processor is today. Isn’t it amazing how far we have come? It took something as big as the size of today’s sound processor just for the microphone back in the day! I used this speech processor during my toddler years. It helped me discover the world of sound and begin my journey to listen and talk.
After the Mini Speech Processor, I upgraded to the Spectra 22 Speech Processor. It comprised of a bodyworn processor connecting to a behind-the-ear microphone via a long cord very much like the Mini Speech Processor. It was tough and withstood many of my crazy shenanigans as a young boy such as completely dropping my Spectra 22 Speech Processor in a Colorado mountain river, and it still worked! I had this speech processor the longest; it very much became a big part of my life. I depended on it, and it supported me like no other technological device. In a way, I grew up with this speech processor.
Right before I entered high school, I upgraded to one of my favorite sound processors, the ESPrit™ 3G Sound Processor. It was completely behind-the-ear, the first of its kind I got to experience. Long gone were the days of struggling to tuck in my shirt because the long cord that attached my behind-the-ear microphone to the bodyworn processor was placed underneath my shirt. This sound processor was much more discreet, which served me well as I was a bit more vain going into high school. I used this sound processor for seven years. It gave me so much more comfort and flexibility throughout my high school and college years. I could not have made it as well as I did without this high-performing sound processor.
Shortly after I started working for Cochlear in 2010, I was still using my ESPrit 3G Sound Processor. I loved this sound processor and felt no desire to upgrade. Plus, I was a bit nervous about the upgrade as I heard that it might be a challenging upgrade. Little did I know what I had in store. After much encouragement from my mentor and work leader, René, I tried the Freedom® Sound Processor upgrade. I couldn’t believe how well I could hear with this upgrade from the get-go and how many new sounds I could hear with it. It was like I had a hearing loss with my previous sound processor, and all of a sudden, I could hear so much more with the Freedom Sound Processor. The upgrade was nowhere near challenging to which to transition; I had absolutely nothing to worry about this upgrade. This sound processor was the first all digital sound processor with which I ever heard. My previous sound processors used analog processing technology. I could not believe the sounds I was picking up with this new sound processor. For example, I always could always subtly hear the fizzing out of a soda pop can with my previous sound processors. With the Freedom upgrade, I couldn’t believe how loud the fizzing was after opening the can. Not only that, the fizzing continued for many minutes afterwards–I had no idea! So I learned an important lesson here: Do not be afraid of upgrades as they bring about very exciting, new sounds and experiences.
Fast forward nearly five years, the Nucleus 6 for Nucleus 22 launched. Naturally, I had to upgrade to this sound processor immediately. One particular area that I struggled in was hearing in noisy environments. I got an all-new noise program with my Nucleus 6 Sound Processor, and I could not believe how well I could hear in noisy environments. Instantly, my confidence to join a lunch meeting or a dinner in a noisy café or restaurant skyrocketed. I no longer felt the sense of dread when I received an invitation.
Just recently, for the first time in my entire life, I heard in water with the Cochlear Nucleus Aqua+. Growing up, anytime I jumped into the pool, took swimming lessons, or vacationed at the beach, I always had to remove my external sound processor and returned to a silent world. Currently, I am doing a secondment at the global Cochlear headquarters in Sydney, Australia. One weekend, I took surfing lessons for the first time and used the Aqua+. I could hear the instructor who was behind me; this would have never happened had I not had the Aqua+. It was remarkable to hear the waves crashing and the birds chirping from above–all while in the water! This is something that I really wish I had growing up, but I am even more thankful to have it now.
One other thing that I treasure in my life is the gift of hearing music. There are very few things that I appreciate more than music. With the Nucleus 6 upgrade, I got the Cochlear Wireless Phone Clip and the Remote Assistant. The music is so clear through the Phone Clip. Best of all, there are no wires. I spend many hours cranking out reports and presentations at my desk. I simply place the Phone Clip next to my keyboard and jam to music all day long. It is pure bliss! When I am traveling, it can be awfully noisy on the plane. So I whip out my Remote Assistant, and I adjust the mixing ratio so that I can completely eliminate sound coming through the microphones and completely focus on the sounds streaming through the Phone Clip. It is like having the world’s best noise-cancelling headphones. Last but not least, the Nucleus 6 Sound Processor is the most comfortable and discreet sound processor I have ever owned. It is incredible.
After receiving the Cochlear Graeme Clark Scholarship, I worked as a summer marketing intern with Cochlear Americas based in Centennial, CO, USA, the very company responsible for enabling me to grow up in a world of sound. I am now a Marketing Manager where I have the honor and privilege to manage Nucleus Sound Processor upgrades, recipient communications and Cochlear Celebration events.

Hamish’s inspiring story

Hamish developed a significant hearing loss at just 15 months old, four month later he received his Cochlear™ implants, and life changed for Hamish and his family.

Upgraded to the Nucleus® 6 Sound Processor with access to Cochlear Wireless Accessories, Hamish has enjoyed using the wireless accessories in his active life. Especially playing soccer. Before his upgrade he struggled to hear his soccer coach over the other children on the field. Now with the Mini Microphone, Hamish says he is able to clearly hear instructions over everything else going on – and his skills are improving!