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How Paul opened the door to a world of sound

This hearing loss feature appeared as an advertorial in The Sydney Morning Herald on 9 May 2024.
Head and shoulder shot of Paul sitting outside with maroon t-shirt on, smiling
  • Hearing

Many of those living with hearing loss are unaware that cochlear implants could be their best option.

Evidence shows people wait an average of nine years before seeking help for hearing loss, which many Australians often see as a natural part of ageing.

However, this reluctance can significantly impact health and wellbeing, says Chris Rehn, chief executive of NextSense, a nonprofit organisation that runs Australia’s largest cochlear implant program.

“Hearing loss can lead to social isolation, mental health problems, falls, hospitalisation and cognitive decline,” he says.

“The evidence continues to mount around the link between hearing loss and dementia, with studies nominating hearing loss as the number one modifiable risk factor for developing the disease.”

However, people could avoid many problems if they received more information and support to take action sooner, Rehn adds.

Currently, only one in 10 adults who could benefit from a cochlear impact actually receives one, despite being by far the largest group affected by hearing loss.

Cochlear implants suit people of all ages whose hearing aids don’t provide them with enough sound.

However, many people don’t know they might be a suitable option, Rehn says. Many of them are also unaware of how to access a cochlear implant, what’s involved in the surgery or that the procedure can be done overnight, and potentially could be covered by Medicare.

Already one in six Australians lives with hearing loss, and one in three of those with hearing loss is aged 65 and over. Hearing loss costs Australia an estimated $40 billion in financial costs and lost wellbeing—and in the next 30 years, the number of those with hearing loss is expected to double.

Rehn says families of those struggling with the condition can make a critical difference by encouraging and supporting them to seek help—and providing the tools to do so.

Having a wider team can also be instrumental in helping the affected person navigate their options. This can include GPs, peer support from others experiencing hearing loss, and wraparound care within a high quality cochlear implant program, where surgeons work with speech pathologists, audiologists and psychologists.

Wearing a hearing aid in one ear and cochlear implant in the other, Paul Rice knows the struggle of hearing loss. Thirty years ago he was diagnosed with otosclerosis, a form of abnormal bone growth within the middle ear that causes progressive hearing loss. His father and grandfather also had it.

“When I was first told about my hearing loss, it was pretty scary for me because I knew what had happened to my father,” Rice says. “I’d also lost the ability to understand a lot of what people say. I was struggling and
had withdrawn into myself.”

When Rice first explored a cochlear implant with NextSense, the free sessions with dedicated counsellors were especially beneficial, he says.

“It has helped me immensely, just to sit and talk and tell her my fears, my feelings and to express myself,” Rice says. “I’ve had a lot of help along the way but it’s a journey worth doing. It turned out brilliantly.”

Today, Rice is passionate about supporting the mental health of those with hearing loss, and connects with those affected about how to navigate deafness.

“It’s great to be able to talk to people who have experienced it; it’s therapeutic to help others,” he says, adding that it’s important
for those considering a cochlear implant to learn as much as they can.

Join our free information session to discover how you could benefit from a cochlear implant.

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