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The purr of a classic car engine is music to Rodney’s ‘new’ ears

Queensland car enthusiast Rodney, 66, describes his experience with a cochlear implant as ‘just magic’—it has allowed him to hear the glorious sound of his classic ’66 Mustang for the first time.
Photo of Rodney sitting at the wheel of his Ford Mustang, his face reflected in the side mirror.
  • Hearing

Queensland car enthusiast Rodney, 66, describes his experience with a cochlear implant as ‘just magic’—it has allowed him to hear the glorious sound of his classic ’66 Mustang for the first time.

But, he says, the magic comes with time, isn’t a quick fix, and needs some good old-fashioned work on the part of the user.

‘As soon as they turned my implant on, I could hear sound and words. At first, it was very electronic, like a cross between Daleks and Chipmunks. I could hear words, but not necessarily understand them.’

But by doing his homework, which for him included listening to audiobooks for three hours a day, his hearing improved dramatically within a few months. Rodney regularly shares his insights with others as part of his work with the Cochlear Implant Club & Advisory Association (CICADA). He stresses to others on this journey that it’s important to stick to your appointment schedule and do your ‘homework’ to get the best results.

This is where regular audiology visits come in. For Rodney, an audiologist from his local NextSense centre in Toowoomba guided him through the process of programming, or ‘mapping’, his implant to suit his individual needs.

‘Every time I went back to NextSense, they were able to adjust the tone and volume of my cochlear to suit me, so my hearing improved at every session. After around 12 months they had it tweaked almost perfectly. 

Gradual hearing loss and a life-changing moment

Rodney had experienced hearing loss in his right ear for years, and trialled hearing aids in both ears to help him hear better, particularly for his job as a workplace trainer.

‘But I was dissatisfied and took them back after a month, as I found hearing aids picked up every sound around me,’ he says. ‘I just put up with my normal hearing at the time.’

Things changed dramatically two years ago when the semicircular canal in his left middle ear burst, leaving him profoundly deaf in that ear. Despite surgery, 18 months of rehab and physiotherapy, his hearing didn’t improve, so he started to rely on lip reading.

‘I never thought hearing loss was a big deal until it happened to me. I love my music and going to live concerts. All that was gone, even communicating with my wife became a problem.

‘I just couldn't hear anything, you know, I couldn't hear my ’66 Mustang, I could only hear a distorted sound of the engine.’

At one point, Rodney says he felt like a hermit, because he could no longer enjoy the things he used to do.

But when his Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon suggested a cochlear implant may be an option, he decided to explore his choices. Our local centre in Toowoomba booked him in for an assessment and found he was an ideal candidate. Within a month, he had cochlear implant surgery.

‘I was out of bed literally next day and went home. I have private health cover and so it cost virtually nothing – only a small gap to pay for a brand-new cochlear. I called it the miniature motherboard that was under my scalp.’

For Rodney, this means he can go to the movies with his wife again, go to live bands and hear his beloved classic cars. He can also hear the birds at the creek on his hobby farm, and the miaow of his hairless cat Sunny. He uses rechargeable batteries, which last around 18 hours, to keep his implant functioning.

Around six months ago he was fitted with a new hearing aid for his right ear, which links to his cochlear so that now he can hear in both ears.

My cochlear implant allows me to enjoy life as it was before I became deaf, it’s just magic.

— Rodney says

‘I've just turned 66, which is pretty disappointing in itself, but I'm going to live pedal to the metal until I can't.’

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