“I would say I feel that I am now back in the world.”

Sue KingsleyMy name is Susan Kingsley and I am 58. I first noticed that my hearing was deteriorating when I was 38.  I tried to ignore it at first but eventually sought help and was prescribed hearing aids.  

Due to a number of infections my left ear became progressively worse and eventually I stopped trying to use a hearing aid, and relying solely on the right ear.  I have sensori-neural hearing loss which was progressive and life became increasingly more difficult as my hearing declined. I had been a legal secretary, but as things worsened I had to give that up and try to find employment that didn’t rely on me being able to audio type or use the telephone. I found that I was increasingly withdrawing from social situations and would walk studying the ground, avoiding eye contact. I became adept at avoiding conversations except with people I knew very well. 

I have always tried to find the humour in my situation such as “agreeing “ to help to see if a breathing tube inserted up your nostril in a particular way was better than an alternative one.  I saw a gentleman with the type of device I had provisionally decided on, and decided to ask his opinion as to its performance.   He seemed baffled by my question and proffered said device for my inspection.   I told my husband who had been in the toilet, that I wasn’t sure the guy understood, to which he responded “did you not realise he was German”?  He had heard the conversation as the toilet window was open.  I had had no clue!  

As time has gone on I have realised the insidious nature of hearing loss. Initially I found I was asking people to repeat occasionally, then missing more and more till I either gave up trying or, or pretended I had heard. Deafness is a very isolating disability, and I found that every sigh, eyeroll or “don’t worry” chipped away at my confidence.

By October 2016 I was deaf in one ear and profoundly deaf in the other. I  was told by the hospital that hearing aids were on longer a viable solution for me and that either I could accept this and live as a deaf person or investigate my suitability as a cochlear implant recipient. I opted for a referral to Southampton Auditory Implant Centre and it was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made.   From prior to my acceptance on to the programmed the administration staff helped in tracking my referral.  Nothing was ever too much trouble.  I had my first round of appointments in February 2017.  Due to other issues I had a delay of 3 months before re-joining the assessment process.  In September I was told that the team had agreed I was a suitable candidate for surgery.

Throughout the process everything has been explained thoroughly, the information given both verbal and written is exemplary.

I accepted a short notice operation slot and was implanted on 4th October 2017 by Mr Tim Mitchell of the West Team.  After one night in hospital I was discharged.  For the next four weeks I was deaf.  On the 2nd November my implant was activated by Roberta Buhagiar.  It was truly fantastic! I could hear! And have gone on from strength to strength.  I am hearing with my implant sounds long forgotten, it’s quite strange to hear something then have to track it down to identify it. I found myself confused by a quiet sound which turned out to be the tick of the second hand of a watch on a shelf.  I have had a few post implant sessions now, with Anna Lyford who, like her colleagues is a fantastic support and advisor. I am currently working through the telephone use manual which I am sure will be helpful with some of the finer points of phone use.  I have made telephone calls to people I know well, yes, I may have to ask them to repeat occasionally but so do most people I think at some point.  I am using the phone in the palm of my hand on speaker. 

At the moment I am working at hearing as well as I can. It is important to realise that no one can guarantee the outcome in respect of hearing ability and for some things take longer than for others.  Also, like most things you get out of it what you put in, the implant gives you the sound, you have to work to identify it and each day becomes easier.  

I would say I feel that I am now back in the world. From avoiding asking questions I am now happy to try to find things out for myself.  I was lucky in that my family especially my husband and daughters were very supportive and have always helped me with telephone calls, etc.   It’s a funny thing but from asking people to repeat themselves I am now asking them to stop shouting. Conversely, as you are more aware of your own voice (as its closer to the microphone), people keep telling me to speak up, quite the role reversal. 

I love my new implant and look forward to whatever innovations come with the development in the cochlear implant world.