Three Generations of Cochlear Implants
Over the last 9 years, one family has received the gift of hearing three times. Leslie French (72), his daughter Jody Maitland (39) and his grandson Hayden Maitland (10) have all suffered varying degrees of hearing loss yet through the amazing technology of cochlear implants at the Ear Science Institute Australia’s Hearing Implant Centre, they are now able to hear with clarity and understand the words their loved ones speak.
With a family history of hearing loss, Jody Maitland ensured her son Hayden had a hearing test as a newborn. He passed the hearing test but to ensure any potential hearing loss was picked up quickly, Jody had his hearing monitored every six months.
This regular testing meant that Hayden’s hearing loss as a toddler was quickly identified and it progressed to a need for his first hearing aid at the age of 4. Since then, Hayden’s hearing loss has further deteriorated to a need for a hearing aid in his left ear and a cochlear implant in his right ear due to profound deafness.
The driving force behind the monitoring of Hayden’s hearing loss was his mother Jody Maitland and the impact hearing loss had on her life. A cochlear implant recipient herself, Jody was born with hereditary hearing loss in both ears.
She was diagnosed as having a hearing loss at the age of 8 after her mother Kathleen persisted on having second opinions, knowing that something was wrong. However it was not until the age of 32 that she received two cochlear implants, one per ear, to assist her with looking after her two young children.
Jody believes the impact of the years she lost to almost silence in the classroom was significant. “If I was diagnosed earlier, I believe I would have performed better in school and gone on to further studies and to University” Jody said. “Hayden is at such a crucial point in his schooling, soon he’ll be going to high school and so we’ve gone through the Hearing Implant Centre to avoid the lengthy waiting lists for the public system”.
Jody was motivated to receive her cochlear implants late in life after seeing the positive impact it had on her father Leslie French’s life.
Mr French had lived with significant hearing loss in one ear and total deafness in the other for many years. He had used hearing aids but working in the building industry, he believes the loud noise greatly contributed to his hearing loss.
“I had hearing aids but they just made things louder. I couldn’t understand what people were saying when receiving on the job training or in meetings. I know it impacted my career, I could have gone further if I had been able to understand what people were saying”.
In 2005 Mr French received his first cochlear implant in his deaf ear after his GP identified he may have been a candidate for cochlear implants. “I had been told before that I wasn’t a candidate but my GP thought I might be, so he gave me a referral to Dr Marcus Atlas and it turned out I was a candidate!” Mr French scheduled in his appointment and soon was receiving treatment.
“It was so great” he said. “I could hear sounds I had never been able to hear before, like birds chirping off in the distance or car horns honking. The clarity was unbelievable. I wish I had it done sooner.”
Within 2 years, Mr French had booked in to have his second cochlear implant in his other ear and his daughter Jody received hers at the same time. Both find the clarity of the sound the biggest improvement to their life, but there is one downside – the noise of cutlery scraping!
The doctor performing the surgery was also of key importance to the family. Mr French had his cochlear implant surgery performed by Dr Marcus Atlas of the Hearing Implant Centre, Subiaco. When it came time for his daughter Jody to have her implant she also chose Dr Atlas. “It was a natural choice to go back to Dr Atlas for Hayden’s surgery” Mrs Maitland said. “He knows our story and has been with us on this journey and he’s the one I trust to do the surgery on Hayden”.
Hayden’s surgery was successful and has just had the device ‘switched-on’ to activate the internal and external mechanism to work together to relay sound. He was surrounded by family in the Hearing Implant Centre in Subiaco, with his mother at his side as he became the third generation of his family to have his cochlear implant switched-on.
With the anticipation leading up to the event, Hayden, his mother and his grandparents became overwhelmed with emotions as the first sounds came through. He was
able to keep his composure until he heard his mother’s voice and the emotions became too much. Luckily, having gone through the experience herself, Jody was able to comfort her son and reassure him that he will get used to the new way of hearing as his ears will need to “learn how to hear”.
Quickly, Hayden was able to enjoy the experience and could identify different sounds and was keen to listen to his favourite song ‘Everything is Awesome’ from the Lego movie, a fitting song choice for a boy who has received the gift of hearing back in his right ear.
Hayden and his family’s story is a unique one given the three generations of Cochlear implants and all by Dr Marcus Atlas of the Ear Science Institute Australia’s Hearing Implant Centre. If you believe you or your loved ones have a profound hearing loss, it is important to seek a referral for an assessment and you too, may be able to experience the clarity and joy of hearing once again.