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Annette’s story 



Seventy-three-year-old retired nurse Annette Herbert had her cochlear implant fitted two years ago when tests showed that her hearing had deteriorated to a point that hearing aids were no longer effective. The Auckland-based grandmother says being able to have phone conversations with her family has been life-changing, and she keeps busy with exercise class, gardening and watching her nine-year-old grand-daughter’s ballet class. 

She tells us her story: 


"My mother discovered I was deaf when I was six years old. It was after a bout of measles – this was before vaccination times. Controversially, there was some discussion I also had a genetic component to my deafness, but it was never confirmed.  


“In order to get by, I’d taught myself to lip read. I wasn’t fitted with a hearing aid, nor was I taught NZSL. I sat up the front in class and worked hard at school. I did quite well and was accepted into school dental nursing when I finished high school.  


“When I look back, it was hard, but I read a lot to make up for what I missed during lectures. I struggled in groups so only coped with one friend at a time but I didn’t do this consciously. I always strived to be the best version of myself – I was swimming champion at both primary and high school where I grew up at Muriwai Beach on Auckland’s west coast. 


“I was finally fitted with one hearing aid in my early 20’s. This did make a difference but it wasn’t until my 40’s when I decided to become a Registered Nurse, that I was told that I qualified for funded aids. I was then fitted with two hearing aids and couldn’t believe the difference.  

“I was a surgical nurse at Starship Children’s Hospital for 20 years. I must admit, I had to ask my colleagues to take phone calls for me and was unaware that some machines made a beep to show they’d finished. I obviously had coping strategies for this by watching the machine closely and seeing what came up on the screen. I think also being deaf enhances other senses and mine was intuition which stood me in good stead as a paediatric nurse.  


“My husband passed away 15 years ago and after he died, I realised how much I relied on him to hear for me. He was very good at remembering what someone said so he could relay it to me. We stopped going to movies, and I felt that I had withdrawn – I hid behind him a lot. 

 

“I retired from nursing in my 60’s and enjoyed watching my grandchildren grow up. I’d been struggling with my hearing aids and a hearing test confirmed there had been some deterioration. I had an appointment with The Hearing House where they confirmed that I needed a cochlear implant and I was put on the waiting list. In 2020, I re-registered as a nurse and helped out for a year during the Covid-19 pandemic. Wearing a mask was a nightmare as I tried to work out what were saying without being able to lip read.  


“I had my implant two years ago this month. It’s been life changing. I can hear most of the words of a song on the radio, birds singing, leaves rustling and conversations in the car. l now have conversations with family and friends and don’t pretend to have heard what was said and in turn, they’ve commented on how well I hear. According to my tests at The Hearing House, I’ve improved dramatically and my speech has also. I still wear a hearing aid in the other ear as I feel this gives me balance and a directional sense.  


“The Hearing House is the most welcoming place and I always feel well looked after and listened to.  


“I’m happy to share my journey as it might encourage someone with profound hearing loss to consider a cochlear implant. I think there’s some hesitation around it because of the unknown.  

“Initially, I was disappointed that my surgeon was unable to save what hearing I had in my implanted ear but I’ve gained so much more from having had the implant. I love that my CI is Bluetooth capable as I can now have conversations on my cell phone with anyone! Previously I had to get my daughter to make business calls for me and was always nervous knowing I would only hear part of the conversation. I have another daughter in the South Island and a son in Australia so being able to keep in touch with them and my grandchildren on the phone is another bonus of having a cochlear implant.  


“They love that they can now have a decent conversation with me, too. I used to feel like I was missing out on a lot of things, but not anymore.” 

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