After more than a decade of living with the challenges of hearing loss, Wayne, 65, had high expectations of what he might experience when his new cochlear implant was finally switched on this year.
‘We were told that he wouldn't be able to hear straight away. It'll gradually happen,’ Wayne’s wife Genevieve says.
‘But we had our hopes up that it would be turned on, and he'd be able to hear right away.’
After such a long journey with hearing loss and many disappointments in unsuccessfully trying to use hearing aids, Wayne’s ‘switch-on’ day was deflating. Voices sounded metallic and sounds were not as clear as he imagined.
‘It was not what I thought it would be, it sounded completely different to normal. Noises were strange,’ he says. ‘I was disappointed. I went straight into work and [retired].’
Wayne had worked for decades in construction, and work had become increasingly stressful after being diagnosed with profound hearing loss in his left ear and moderate hearing loss in his right.
‘I had to hear what people were saying because I was digging holes around assets under the ground. People would see the power cable before me and yell out, “Stop!”. If I didn't hear them, I could do a lot of damage.’
Despite his initial disappointment, Wayne persevered. After a few months of rehabilitation, which included listening exercises and several ‘mapping’ sessions to help his brain adjust to the device, he began to get used to his implant and understand the sounds it transmitted. He is gradually re-learning and identifying the sounds he can hear in everyday life.
‘My NextSense audiologist would give me words to listen to and I would have to listen and repeat them back and things like that,’ he says.
Now, he’s confident he made the right decision—he can hear his young grandchildren better than ever, is getting back to bike riding and playing golf. And he’s sharing his story at NextSense events to help others considering a cochlear implant journey.
A long journey to cochlear implants
Some people find hearing aids improve their access to sound, but they don’t work for everyone, and circumstances can change over time. Despite having hearing loss in both ears, Wayne could only use an aid in one ear because he had fluid buildup in the other.
‘I was struggling with the hearing aid. I would go back to see my previous audiologist every couple of months, trying to get a better result. I tried a few different hearing aids, as they are being updated all the time,’ he says.
After 12 years of trying to hear, Wayne noticed his hearing loss was having a significant impact on his life.
I felt stressed out. I didn’t want to go to work. I didn't want to get up in the morning. I’d just had enough. It impacted my social and family life. I didn't want to go out and associate with people because I knew I couldn't hear them.
That’s when Genevieve investigated cochlear implants as an alternative to hearing aids. Wayne’s doctor referred him to one of the expert surgeons in the NextSense network. And he was identified as a suitable candidate for an implant.
The surgery itself went smoothly, and over time, the bumps on the road to sound have begun to smooth out as well, so Wayne is now embracing his retirement with gusto.
‘I now see the grandkids once a week and can hear them more and more all the time. And I can actually hear the television, which I couldn't hear when I just had the hearing aid. I don't know how I found time to work—I'm busy every day!’