Shirley celebrates 30 years with a cochlear implant!

15. Shirley

Shirley, who is 88 years old, is celebrating the 30th anniversary of her cochlear implant in 2015.

Shirley lost her hearing suddenly after her 11th birthday. Years later she received an implant through the program now known as SCIC Cochlear Implant Program, an RIDBC service.

“This anniversary is one of the biggest milestones in my life,” said Shirley. “When I lost my hearing there was very little information or support available. No one explained my tinnitus – it was just called ‘head noises’. I am quite sure my parents had no idea what I was going through.

“Six months after I lost my hearing, I began receiving lip reading lessons and speech therapy from RIDBC. Without this support I would have been lost – it allowed me to communicate.”

In 1985, at a stage when cochlear implantation was still in its infancy, Professor William (Bill) Gibson was her surgeon when Shirley became just the third person in NSW to receive a cochlear implant.

“When I lost my hearing there was little technology to assist the deaf,” said Shirley.  “When articles started appearing in the media about experiments in cochlear implants I grew impatient with my deafness – I wanted to hear! That’s when I found out that I was a candidate for a cochlear implant.”

“I can’t put into words what it was like to hear sound after 47 years. After such a long period of deafness my brain didn’t immediately recognise speech, but soon after lip reading became easier and I could understand people I had previously put in the ‘too hard’ basket!

“Receiving the implant through SCIC Cochlear Implant Program has been fantastic – the staff are so supportive. I still attend the centre twice yearly for programming and they are always on stand-by to help.”

Shirley is positive about the benefits of cochlear implant technology for people of all ages.

It’s amazing meeting recent recipients of a cochlear implant. Some are in their nineties and again able to enjoy their lifestyle rather than be cut off from family and friends.  They usually understand speech immediately after their implant is ‘switched on’. Babies with an implant can grow up with normal hearing!”

At 88 years of age, Shirley remains an active member of her community.

“I spend a lot of time in my garden, I enjoy photography and I attend classes at the Little Bay Community Centre,” said Shirley. “Also, I have a wicked sense of humour, which is important if one is deaf!”

SCIC Cochlear Implant Program, an RIDBC service, supports clients to access a range of implantable hearing devices according to their needs. Adults and children with hearing loss get the best results when cochlear implant services are combined with early intervention, specialist education or therapy programs.

For more information about cochlear implants or SCIC Cochlear Implant Program, visit ridbc.org.au/scic or call 1300 658 981.

RIDBC is Australia’s largest non-government provider of therapy, education, cochlear implant and diagnostic services for people with hearing or vision loss, supporting thousands of adults, children and their families, each year. Services are provided from 17 sites across Australia and through an outreach service that supports clients living in regional areas.

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