“I could hear my kids. I had never heard anything my three-year-old said – ever.”
Christchurch mother of three Nikki Cleine woke up one morning and realised she couldn’t hear herself speaking. She was 26-years-old.
“I remember saying to my husband ‘did I just say that out loud?’ He said yes, and I realised I couldn’t hear myself. It was really shocking,” says Nikki.
“I haven’t been given a reason for my hearing loss, it came out of the blue. I failed a hearing test in my early 20s, and it gradually deteriorated to the point where I became profoundly deaf.”
Nikki’s hearing loss had a significant impact on her work and family life.
“Think about how many people you talk and listen to in a day. I had a busy job as a customer service supervisor and I’m a mother to three children – school activities, work life and my personal relationships were all affected.
“The kids stopped talking to me – they started talking to their dad. I had to leave my job and I was worried I’d never work again. Hearing loss is chronic and unrelenting. Every communication is a struggle.”
Nikki was referred to the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme, and underwent surgery for a cochlear implant in 2011. She is one of the lucky ones – only 40 adults nationally receive government funding for a cochlear implant every year. There are currently more than 200 adults on the waiting list, and without an increase in funding the majority will never hear again.
“The day my cochlear implant was switched on was one of the best days of my life. I could hear my kids. I had never heard anything my three-year-old said, ever,” says Nikki.
“The gift of sound, connection and communication means everything to me and my family. This device has transformed all our lives.
“By the time I received my cochlear implant my confidence and quality of life were at rock bottom. Being isolated from life going on around you, and not being able to participate, makes it a very lonely world to inhabit.
“I no longer have to stand on the sidelines watching everyone else living and laughing because I’m right there with them.”
A year after receiving her cochlear implant Nikki started working at the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme as an adult rehabilitationist, supporting patients from initial assessment through to switch-on and subsequent follow-up.