Now the 72-year-old wants to share her journey and encourage others to explore their options when it comes to hearing loss.
Catherine Keenan had the sound processor for her cochlear implant switched on shortly before Christmas, an experience she describes as ‘wonderful’.
“I could hear my grandkids and family again! It was comforting,” she says.
Catherine’s Audiologist at RIDBC Clive Berghofer Centre in Toowoomba, Shannon Culley, agrees that it was an emotional experience. “There was a lot riding on this for Catherine. Socialising had become difficult as she couldn’t communicate verbally and as you might imagine, this can be very isolating,” she explains.
“We turned her sound processor on for the first time, and after a few minutes, she could hear and respond to questions. It was quite amazing – you could see the weight lifted off her shoulders immediately.”
Catherine lost hearing in her left ear suddenly almost two decades ago. She initially received a hearing aid, which was an effective solution at the time. Then, in August 2019, she suddenly lost hearing in her right ear as well, making it difficult to understand and interpret speech.
When having a conversation proved difficult, and Catherine had to rely on her sister to translate, she knew hearing aids were no longer enough. It was time for a long-term solution.
RIDBC worked with Catherine to explore her options when it came to cochlear implants, arranging assessments, ensuring she was a suitable candidate, exploring funding options and enabling her to meet with ENT surgeons to discuss the procedure.
Catherine made the decision to proceed with a cochlear implant and was put on the list at Port Macquarie Base Hospital, expecting to receive her cochlear implant sometime in 2020. However, Catherine was surprised when an opportunity presented to have the procedure in December 2019.
She had her surgery just ten days later. “Although it was short notice, all the assessments and consultations had been done and Catherine felt ready – it was a great opportunity for her, and she ultimately made the decision to go ahead,” says Shannon. “We were all very excited for her,” she adds.
For Catherine, her cochlear implant means she can get back into doing the things she loves and socialising with family and friends. “I can talk to my family and take part in conversations again. I can hear and make decisions for myself instead of having to rely on others. I am back to being myself and can get back to my role as Treasurer of our local View Club. I don’t feel so isolated anymore,” she says.
For some people, hearing aids just aren’t enough. “In Catherine’s case, cochlear implants really were the only solution that would enable her to get access to sound and speech,” Shannon explains. Many older Australians don’t explore their options because they think they are “too old”. There are no age restrictions when it comes to cochlear implants, and RIDBC support recipients who range in age from infancy to over 100 years old.
In Australia today, there are around 150,000 adults who could benefit from this life-changing technology. Home to Australia’s largest cochlear implant program, RIDBC provides services for adults and children with hearing loss across the country, including diagnostics, therapy, and cochlear implant services.
Catherine’s message is clear: If you are experiencing hearing loss and having difficulty understanding conversations, act now, so you can get back into life and rediscover the things you love.
This news article was created prior to 22 March 2021 when NextSense was Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC).