The Decision

I’ve always known about cochlear implants from a young age.

My mother learnt of them – I don’t know where and how – but she explained it to me, and asked if I wanted to get one. I said no, and according to her, I said “I’d rather keep my broken ears for now”. Mind you, I was about 5 or 6 at the time.

Flash forward to a couple of years later. I was 9 or thereabouts, and Mum told me that A Current Affair was showing a special about cochlear implants. She asked if I wanted to watch it with her, and I did. I was curious about this technology, as I had heard of a number of deaf children getting these.

We watched the documentary, and Mum interpreted the important bits. She then asked me again if I wanted to get them. My answer was still no — I was skeptical because the technology was still fairly new, and I didn’t like the idea of having half of my head shaved and cut into. It looked so massive, and the recovery was long.

A year later, I was at Australian Hearing for my yearly appointment. I saw a poster saying that all cochlear implant operations in Bundaberg were conducted at the Bundaberg Base Hospital. Somehow, I had a gut feeling saying that I would get a cochlear implant some day. The question was…when? 

What also made me skeptical about cochlear implants was the strong reaction from the Deaf community. I was constantly being told that it would make your face go weird, that you would be forced to go to intensive speech therapy, and that you would be shunned if you got a cochlear implant. It was just awful.

I’ll be honest here — I did believe that cochlear implants were an awful idea for a while, but I was young and a sheep. My guts were saying otherwise, but I ignored it.

When I turned 18, I started to think about the idea of getting a cochlear implant more seriously. I talked to a friend who had gotten hers at the time, and she said that it was exhausting. She suggested that I think about it a bit more.

I also asked Mum if she would be okay with me getting a cochlear implant. Her words were: I’ve always given you that option. You said no twice, and I respected that. I know that you will make a decision some day, but that is not today. It’s your body, and I trust you to make the right decision for yourself.

The idea of getting a cochlear implant was put on the backburner for nearly a decade.

I was 27, and my audiologist at the time had told me that my hearing levels in my right ear had dropped significantly since my last appointment (that was approximately 4 years prior) and that a hearing aid would not be of any benefit anymore. She however gave me the opportunity to see if it worked. I took it home with me afterwards, and I tried using it in my right ear with the television and stereo on maximum levels. Nothing.

I went back a couple of weeks later with the hearing aid, and told the audiologist that they were correct. It was of no use. They then suggested that I consider getting a cochlear implant. I asked them why a cochlear implant would be good for me. They had the nerve to say “Oh, it would be great to hear your kids voices”. Is that all they’re giving me?  I politely said that it wasn’t a good enough reason for me to get a cochlear implant. At the same time, I was undecided about the idea of having children myself.

Again, the idea of getting a cochlear implant was put on the backburner for another few years.

I wasn’t satisfied with the hearing aid I was wearing in my left ear, so I stopped for a while. I found it frustrating that my left ear was working overtime to ‘hear’ and my hearing aid wasn’t doing enough.

In late 2014, I felt I was coming close to making a final decision on whether I wanted to see if I was a candidate. I sent an email to the Melbourne Cochlear Implant Clinic with a few questions about the process and if they provided Auslan interpreters. They answered my questions accordingly, and they said they would provide an Auslan interpreter for every appointment. They said to take my time to think about it, and that I would need to get Australian Hearing to refer me to the CIC.

A year later, I made an appointment with Australian Hearing. I asked the audiologist if she would be happy to refer me to the CIC. She had this excited look on her face, and she said she had been reading my file (it was HUGE — 30 years worth of information!) and she thought I would be a good candidate. She also said that I was eligible for a new hearing aid through the Australian Government’s hearing aid program.

I got a letter from the Melbourne Cochlear Implant Clinic at the Royal Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital, saying that my first initial appointment had been scheduled for 22nd January 2016. This is it…it begins now. I called them to ask them to book an Auslan interpreter, but to my surprise, they had already booked one. Impressive!

The day arrived. I met with Mini, the audiologist who explained the whole process of assessing my candidacy for a cochlear implant. This time, I listened to my guts…it was saying “You’ve got nothing to lose — go for it”.

I knew right there and then that I had nothing to lose.

To be continued…

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