Childcare professional Christine Ruhan has experienced gradually deteriorating hearing loss her entire life. In 2018, after realising that hearing aids were no longer enough, she made the decision to access cochlear implants through NextSense—a choice she says has enabled her to participate fully at work, reconnect with her passions, and socialise more freely.
Christine’s hearing loss journey
Christine first learnt she had hearing loss when she was just five years old. Growing up she learnt lip reading to allow her to navigate the world and participate socially.
For more than 30 years, her lip-reading skills, and eventually her hearing aids, enabled Christine to pursue a successful career in childcare.
But as the years went on, Christine’s hearing began to deteriorate, impacting her ability to advance her career and participate fully in the workplace.
‘As my hearing deteriorated over the years—so did my ability to perform my childcare role independently,’ she says.
Unfortunately, Christine’s hearing aids were not providing her with the level of hearing she needed to pursue a full-time childcare position, as she found it challenging to hear the children’s voices and write observations.
After her family noticed the ongoing and increasing decline in her hearing, Christine decided to explore cochlear implants as an option and booked a consultation with her audiologist.
‘My hearing test showed I was profoundly deaf. I was surprised as I thought I was hearing okay! The audiologists informed me that I was already wearing the strongest digital hearing aids available and so I was eligible to apply for cochlear implants.'
In 2018, Christine was referred to a cochlear implant specialist and had several hearing and balance tests and MRIs to assess her compatibility with cochlear implants. Her results proved she was compatible, and also revealed she had a benign brain tumor.
‘The staff and the specialists informed me of what to expect throughout my whole journey—bringing me a sense of comfort, security, and trust, without any fear—making my experience a pleasant one,’ Christine says.
Taking the complications of her tumor into careful consideration and adjusting the brand of her implant to ensure compatibility with ongoing CAT and MRI scans, Christine proceeded to receive bilateral cochlear implants.
‘I was very comfortable and well cared for by the doctors and nurses. My pain level during recovery was very minimal and the only downfall is you must sleep on one side for a couple of weeks,’ she says.
Cochlear implants give Christine a new lease on life
Now almost four years since her surgery, Christine’s cochlear implants have enabled her to continue a career in childcare, explore a whole new world of activities, and reconnect with the people she loves.
‘I was expecting to live a silent lip-reading world for the rest of my life until I discovered the NextSense cochlear implant program—a service that gave me a hearing level that I had never experienced in my lifetime.’
Several mapping sessions with her NextSense audiologist, Samantha Stevens, has optimized the functionality of her new implants and assisted Christine to adapt to a new world of sound in her everyday life and at work.
‘My cochlear implants have enabled me to regain my independence and perform my childcare role without the support from the staff and children. A massive burden lifted off my shoulders and my emotional wellbeing,’ Christine says.
She is now able to participate in her childcare centre’s daily singalong of Taba Naba by the Wiggles and welcome to country song—an activity she lost the confidence to do as her hearing deteriorated.
‘When I got my cochlear implants, the first thing I did was learn the Taba Naba song. When I sang it with everyone, I had tears running down my face. After working there for 10 years I finally felt part of the big family at last and not alone.'
The benefits Christine has experienced have not been limited to the workplace—her newfound access to sound has enabled her to better participate in conversations with her family and friends.
‘When socializing, I would always drive and use the rear vision mirror to lip read friends in the back seat. At night I was unable to achieve this task and would travel in silence. Now I can hear everything, even in the dark, and join in with the laughs,’ she says.
Since accessing cochlear implants Christine has rekindled her connection with the school friends she grew up with, as she can now hear them over the phone when they call.
Recently, she met with these friends for a weekend in Port Macquarie. Unbeknown to her, one of her friends bought a karaoke set up for entertainment.
Christine was overjoyed to be able to participate in a once daunting activity and share her rekindled joy for song with her friends.
‘Just before I started to sing, I said, "I think I'm going to cry?" and the tears ran down my face while I sang the song, from beginning to end, and all my friends were crying too,’ she says.
‘It was a priceless moment which was very special to all of us as everyone understood my hearing challenges throughout our childhood and my recent experiences in getting my cochlear implants.’