Ever since he lost hearing due to otosclerosis, Paul Rice has been on a mission to enhance his hearing and participate in the world of sound around him. Now, through the combination of a cochlear implant and a hearing aid, Paul’s hearing is the clearest it has been in decades—and he is using his experience and insight to help others struggling with the mental health impact of losing their hearing.
Thirty years ago after an industrial hearing test, Paul, who was in his late 30s, discovered he had otosclerosis, which resulted in profound hearing loss in his right ear and significant hearing loss in his left ear.
Like Paul, both his grandfather and father lost their hearing due to otosclerosis. Unfortunately, heightened stigma and limited technological opportunities at this time made it difficult for Paul's grandfather and father to fully participate in public life.
'When I was first told about my hearing loss, it was pretty scary for me, because I knew what had happened to my father,’ says Paul.
So, after finding out he had the same condition, Paul was determined to find a way to enhance and improve his hearing as much as possible.
Fortunately, shifts in societal attitudes and advances in technology are constantly improving the outcomes for people with hearing loss who want to focus on participating in the hearing world.
Paul first received a hearing aid in the 1980s after a failed stapedectomy (surgery on the innermost hearing bone) on his left ear.
‘It was amazing at first, it totally opened up my life. I could hear my children again. I heard my footsteps again after so long—I thought it was someone following me,’ he says.
While a hearing aid initially greatly improved his quality of life, Paul continued to struggle with the anxiety of only having access to hearing on one side.
In 2008 he was put in touch with the NextSense Werrington centre where he met Carol Amos, a NextSense audiologist. Carol worked with Paul to conduct a series of tests to see if a cochlear implant would be a good option for his right ear.
‘Paul had profound hearing loss in his right ear and severe to profound hearing loss in his left ear. One of his goals was to hear better overall as it would benefit him at work and in social situations,’ says Carol.
After receiving the go ahead to receive his first cochlear implant, Associate Professor Melville da Cruz, a highly regarded ear nose and throat surgeon, conducted the procedure in late 2008.
‘It was a very easy, simple operation. I stayed overnight and left the next day,’ says Paul.
Four weeks after his surgery Paul’s cochlear implant was turned on. At first, he found it difficult to comprehend the sounds he received. But, after allowing several months to adjust to the noise, and numerous appointments with Carol, the implant and hearing aid began to work in conjunction.
‘I have access to high pitches on my cochlear side, while the hearing aid picks up low tones. They both seem to come from each side into the middle and work,’ Paul says.
My hearing is so much better with both [the implant and aid]. I'm more confident. I feel like I've got better control of my hearing and the situation. I switch my cochlear implant on, and everything is totally different. I am back in the hearing world—rather than being isolated on my own.
An element of NextSense Cochlear Implant Services that Paul has found particularly beneficial was access to free sessions with dedicated counsellors.
Our team of NextSense experts are committed to working with our clients to make sure they have the unique support needed to reach their full potential. As part of this, we offer psychology and counselling support to individuals and their families throughout the different stages of their journey.
'It has helped me immensely. Just to sit and talk and to tell her my fears, my feelings and to express myself,’ says Paul.
‘I have had a lot of help along the way, but it is a journey worth doing. It turned out brilliant.’
It is not uncommon for people with hearing loss to experience mental health impacts.
‘Significant hearing loss can cause isolation and frustration with family and friends and this impacts on mental health. Being able to have those one-on-one conversations can reduce this,’ says Carol.
Paul is passionate about sharing the positive impact a cochlear implant can have on an individual’s quality of life and breaking the isolation hearing loss can cause.
He has frequently met with NextSense candidates or recipients over the years to connect, offer advice from his personal experience, and share his story.
‘I've done that for the last 10 years. I've gone and seen people who are thinking about cochlear implants and sat and talked to their families,’ says Paul.
‘The mental health of people with hearing loss, and in general, is something I am very passionate about. I get a lot from connecting with and giving to people—it's therapeutic in to help others.’