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Will I be able to do the things I love with a cochlear implant?

After rapidly losing her hearing in her late 50s, Moira says her bilateral cochlear implants have ‘pulled her out of a world of listening darkness into listening sunshine'.
Moira Kirby
  • Hearing

After rapidly losing her hearing in her late 50s, Moira says her bilateral cochlear implants have ‘pulled her out of a world of listening darkness into listening sunshine’ and that she can now get back to doing all the things she loves most.

Moira noticed she was losing her hearing when she was working as a medical receptionist and in 2011, following a diagnosis of mild, steeply sloping to profound hearing loss, Moira began using a hearing aid in her left ear.

Although it was beneficial at first, over time Moira observed that her hearing aid was no longer providing her with the support she needed to navigate her work and daily life.

‘All of a sudden, my hearing just deteriorated. And I found after 18 months, hearing aids weren't doing anything,’ she says.

After being assessed by NextSense audiologist, Maree McTaggart, and identified as a suitable candidate for a cochlear implant in her left ear, Moira was referred to Associate Professor Kelvin Kong, an esteemed ear nose and throat surgeon.

One of the first questions Moira asked Kelvin and our team of experts at NextSense was: would the implant stop her from doing any of the activities she enjoys.

'When he was speaking to me about having the implant, I said, “But can I still have my haircut? Can I still color my hair? Can I still go swimming?”’ says Moira.

After discussing her questions, Moira was reassured that her implant wouldn’t hold her back from doing the things she loves. There are several ways you can adapt and enhance your speech processor (the external element of the implant) with accessories and settings to meet your needs. In fact, over time she would discover that far from holding her back, her implants would open a whole new world of sound.

In 2013, Moira received her first cochlear implant.

'When I got my first cochlear implant, some things sounded different—that’s something I had to get my head around,’ she said.

While it was an adjustment, Moira grew to depend on the implant, and it became key to enabling her to stay in the workforce and retire on her own terms. It also allowed her to engage in new hobbies that were previously hindered by her hearing loss—such as playing the piano again.

As her hearing deteriorated in her right ear, and a hearing aid was no longer providing the assistance she needed, in 2021, Moira decided it was time to receive a second implant in her right ear.

Since receiving bilateral implants, Moira has worked hard to re-educate her brain and adjust to the new sounds. Her hearing is now the best it has been in decades.

I can't believe how normal everything is with my implants. Everything sounds so clear and precise—at times I go about my daily life and come home and think “Oh, I've got cochlear implants and I haven't even thought about them today." I am more confident.

I have come out of a world of hearing darkness, and into a world of listening sunshine!

Moira is taking full advantage of all the latest features and benefits of her devices. She utilises several accessories including a roger pen and portable microphone and adjusts her cochlear implant’s speech processor settings based on the environment.

‘I can change the scanning to suit a group conversation, or if I am talking to someone one on one in a noisy café, I can set it so that it blocks out background noise,’ she says.

‘My favorite thing is being able to link my cochlear and mobile phone through Bluetooth—now I can have ‘normal’ conversations on the phone.’

Moira is so passionate about the positive impact cochlear implants can have on recipients' lives that she volunteers her own time to answer any questions candidates and recipients have through leading the local CICADA cochlear implant support group in Newcastle.

‘I set it up because I wanted to help people understand more about cochlear implants. I wanted them to understand what they were about so that they could make a decision,’ she says.

Maree McTaggart, Moira’s audiologist, explains that the community support led by individuals with lived experience like Moira are a critical and valued part of our cochlear implant program.

‘Moira is a joy to work with and is extremely willing to be contacted by potential recipients. She has led our morning teas and been founder of local CICADA group—keeping participants in touch,’ Maree says. ‘She has gone above and beyond, and we can’t thank Moira enough for all of the volunteer hours she puts in to help others navigate their cochlear Implant journey.’

Outside of her volunteer work, Moira has been putting her newfound hearing to good use, learning basic Greek language skills for her upcoming Greek holiday.

‘I look forward to picking up a bit more Greek [language], listening to Greek music, visiting the sacred sites, and just doing Zorba dancing everywhere I go,’ says Moira.

‘I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing and who I am without my cochlear implants and the support of NextSense—I'm stoked.’

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