Auditory Implant Service

“Life after deaf”

Well, that’s how it feels with a cochlear implant. It isn’t natural hearing of course, but the difference after the switch-on is absolutely amazing. My surgery took place at the end of February, with four days in Southampton General Hospital, a visit from one of the audiological scientists I had met previously and a phone call from Mr Pringle to my wife an hour after the operation to say that all had gone well – what a caring team they are at the implant centre. Switch-on for me was at the end of March, “You should have some hearing for Easter” they said (what a nice thought). I had no hearing at all in the implanted ear after the operation, which is normal, and this was my best ear previously.

Yes, switch-on day did finally arrive and the hair on the left side of my head was beginning to grow again. The equipment consisted of the implanted parts, twenty-two tiny wires all expertly planted inside the cochlea and a receiver unit complete with magnet placed under the skin behind the ear. The external parts are a microphone similar to a behind-the-ear hearing aid without an earmould, which is connected to the voice processor (about the size of a twenty packet of cigarettes) worn in the shirt pocket or on the trouser belt and a transmitter complete with magnet. When all this is fitted and each electrode wire has been checked and initially tuned, you are switched on. There are five people in the room by now, and my initial reaction was utter disappointment. What a lot of noise, but what does it all mean? I can’t understand a word! I had been told not to expect too much and that voices would sound metallic, rather like a Dalek or Donald Duck, but I did expect to be able to understand something. Then suddenly I recognised a couple of words, and now Jean is speaking … yes, its all coming together. Very metallic, yes … and the sound is received after the mouth opens – how strange!

Just the second day, all my dreams and prayers are being answered and I even understand some of what Jean has said to me in the car on the way home. She has given me such a lot of support, attending each session and we have been able to discuss the detail afterwards from the notes she has taken. There is more tuning again in the following days and more hearing checks. I’m beginning to understand more and able to use the telephone in a limited fashion.

I’m still over the moon with it, and I’ll bore you to “deaf” with the detail if you allow me! I still can’t find words to express how overjoyed I am with the result so far, and how appreciative I am of all the help and understanding I’ve been given. I can now take an active part in life again – truly “life after deaf”

-Rob