Auditory Implant Service

“Implant gave me my life back”

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Barbara Day featured in our 2015 Winter Newsletter showing her tattoo tribute to the West Team at AIS



‘Implant gave me my life back’

This article was published in Yours magazine and written by Carole Richardson. To view the original article please click here

For years Barbara Day coped with being partially deaf but when tinnitus started, she was at her wits’ end. The distressing condition, which causes sufferers to hear constant ringing, humming or buzzing sounds inside rather than outside their bodies, was the last straw. Unable to block out the crashing noises with other sounds (as some non-deaf tinnitus sufferers can) Barbara, a 65-year-old retired tracer/draughtswoman from Bournemouth, had become so sleep-deprived and depressed that she couldn’t face the future.

“It was a combination sound of crashing Niagara Falls, a motor running and a loud whistle. I would get it at night and have to go out for a drive to distract myself. Even with sleeping tablets I couldn’t sleep. In the end I just couldn’t cope,” she admits.

Despite struggling with partial deafness most of her life, she remained optimistic and outgoing after the problem was discovered after leaving school. Although she’d struggled to hear what teachers were saying, it wasn’t until working in her first job as an audio typist that it came to light. “I kept typing all the wrong words so in the end I moved to a job where I didn’t have to answer the phone,” she explains. After a hearing test in her early 20s she was given her first hearing aid for her right ear. Gradually, though, her hearing in both ears deteriorated and, by her early 40s, she needed two hearing aids. Determined not to be ruled by deafness, she learnt to lip-read and went on to play guitar and organ. “I’ve always loved music,” says Barbara whose deafness was affected by a disease of the middle and inner ear bones. The problem was exacerbated by her right-side  eardrum being damaged by a childhood knock and, possibly, also by taking early antibiotics for a permanent chest condition. But once the tinnitus became an extra problem, even music couldn’t help and she became more and more withdrawn. “I’d be embarrassed to try to get into conversations, I’d avoid my neighbours and would be too frightened to even go shopping in case the person on the till tried to talk to me.”

Finding her at breakdown point and seriously contemplating suicide, Barbara’s partner persuaded her to see her ear, nose and throat specialist to discuss an upgrade on her hearing aids. Happily, that helped. After years of believing she was unsuitable for a cochlear implant – a medical device that mimics the natural hearing function of the inner ear – doctors told her she may actually be suitable. “Years ago, when I mentioned it to an audiologist, he told me I wasn’t deaf enough so I always thought that was the case.” But in April last year, following assessments and a six-month wait, she fi nally underwent an NHS implant operation at Southampton General Hospital. Her hearing has improved after every subsequent ‘mapping’ or tweaking – and happily, she’s never looked back.

“On the drive home after the switch-on I could hear indicators and police sirens: all those noises I’d forgotten. It was magical. I hear clocks ticking, birds singing and so many other things I had forgotten about. I can go out with my friends, hold conversations and hear music when I am dancing,” adds Barbara, who has even started strumming her guitar again. Although it hasn’t cured her tinnitus, the implant has enabled her to cope with it now her brain has other noise to concentrate on. “It’s only just before I go to sleep without the processor I notice it, but usually I am so tired that I drop off, knowing I have something to look forward to in the morning. It is so awesome. I would definitely recommend an implant. It has changed my life completely.”

According to a spokeswoman for Cochlear Europe Limited, hearing loss affects almost two thirds of the older population and is now the prevalent disability for men and women aged 70-plus. However, less than ten per cent of adults who qualify for a cochlear implant are receiving one. “Older people aged 65 and over  often think they won’t be eligible, yet research demonstrates that cochlear implants can provide good outcomes in terms of hearing, self-confidence, independence and all-round quality of life, regardless of age,” she says.