Brooke Robertson says her “positive attitude” has made all the difference when it comes to adjusting to life with a cochlear implant.
In fact, her attitude has made a difference throughout the 15-year-old’s entire life.
Brooke was born to David and Lesley-Ann at just 26 weeks gestation. As a result of Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome Brooke weighed just 850 grams, and sadly, her twin died.
She spent her first three months in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and all of that impacted on her development.
At best, Brooke was born with 24 percent hearing and as she grew up, her hearing would fluctuate.
“Over time it came and went,” David says.
Brooke started attending The Hearing House so her hearing could be monitored and in 2007, when she was four-and-a-half years old, she received a hearing aid in her left ear. In 2011 she received one for her right ear.
David says the sound was still coming and going for Brooke.
He says that right from birth, and from what the family learned from the audiology team, they were aware that “the inevitable might happen” – that Brooke could lose her hearing in her right ear altogether.
Brooke was assessed for a cochlear implant in 2011, but it was determined that it would not offer her any improvement.
Also, the family were initially cautious about the idea of a cochlear implant.
“It was the fear of the unknown,” David says.
Brooke says her fear was around the possibility of losing the small amount of natural sound she did have in her right ear. “Getting a cochlear implant did involve risks,” she says.
David says there were long periods of stability and they hoped those would continue.
However, late in 2016, the decision was made for them – Brooke was assessed again and the family got the news that her hearing in her right ear wasn’t going to come back.
“Once her hearing went away, we had no choice anymore,” he says.
Brooke says because she was older when she was assessed the second time, she was able to play a greater part in the decision making.
“Things were up to me in the end,” she says.
The decision to get a cochlear implant was made and Brooke’s device was switched on, on December 22.
Brooke says since receiving her cochlear implant “there’s definitely been a difference”.
The Diocesan School for Girls student has been able to keep up with conversations, hear the teacher better, and cope easier with background noise.
David’s partner Carmel Walsh says the most noticeable difference was Brooke’s confidence in herself.
“I think she’s excelled so much more at school. She’s really really blossomed. There have been a lot of challenges along the way. But to me she is more peaceful, accepting and content in herself.”
David agrees and says his daughter has “got a good spirit”.
“She’s done things with a great attitude.”
He says socially, cochlear implants provide users with access to “a better world – they’re not so isolated”.
Brooke’s auditory-verbal therapist Jayne Simpson Allen has been working with the teenager since her device was switched on and agrees that her confidence has grown.
That happens a lot with teenagers – their confidence grows once they have their cochlear implant. For Brooke, it was very noticeable.
Jayne says Brooke was quick to learn the new skills associated with hearing through her implant and progressed through the auditory hierarchy in six months. Her speech clarity has also improved.
“She very quickly absorbed hearing through the cochlear implant and made sense of the sound.”
Jayne says she was privileged to be present when Brooke made her first phone call. Brooke was a little nervous and wasn’t sure she would be able to hear through the phone, but she called her Dad and easily conversed with him.
“It was only about two months after switch-on and I said to her ‘you shouldn’t be able to do that yet’.”
Brooke has a love of singing and has been in choirs since she was six years old. She’s had singing lessons and is now a member of her school choir, which frequently wins awards, and is the lead singer in a school pop band.
She also plays the hand bells at school, is completing her Duke of Edinburgh bronze award, plays netball, surfs and is a Girl Guides leader.
Her greatest love is drama. Her face lights up as she talks about being on stage, and her aspirations to be an actress and make it big in America.
Brooke says hearing-impaired teenagers who are eligible for a cochlear implant should not hesitate.
“It’s a massive change, and I would definitely recommend it.”
Brooke says her positive attitude has played a big part in everything she has achieved so far and everything she wants to achieve in the future.
“That’s what got me through everything, especially the cochlear implant – it’s all about a positive attitude.”