Despite having a hearing loss from birth, Barb Haynes’ hearing loss went undiagnosed for the first five years of her life, and her difficulty with speech was attributed to her being ‘a quiet child.’
After multiple appointments with various doctors, it was confirmed that she had a hearing loss, and she received her first hearing aid.
Barb, now in her 60’s says things were very different when it came to treating hearing loss in those days. “My mother brought me up playing with kids who could hear. I didn’t use sign language and I just got along.”
In the latter years of high school in the 1960’s, Barb was unsure of the career options available to her as a deaf person, but she remembered her career advisor mentioning that a local bank in Sydney CBD was looking to hire.
What started as a trial, became eleven years as the first deaf person the bank had ever hired. Barb remembers her time with the bank fondly, saying, “I still have good friends from my time there.”
In 2016, with her hearing aids no longer providing the support she needed, Barb wasn’t sure of her options. “I thought I was too old for a cochlear implant,” she says. At a hearing test, she discovered that she was in fact eligible, and that her age certainly wasn’t a barrier.
Barb received her first cochlear implant in June 2016, aged in her sixties. She remembers being both nervous and excited, whereas husband, Sid, says he was looking forward to it. “I was sick of talking to myself!” he quips.
In 2018, Barb noticed that the hearing in her right ear was also weakening. “I used to refer to my right ear as my ‘good ear’, but over time I noticed that my hearing was deteriorating, and my hearing tests confirmed that,” she says.
The decision to get a second implant was much easier for Barb. She knew what to expect and was looking forward to not having to have Sid on her left side to hear him. In August 2018, Barb had her second cochlear implant and quips, “Now it doesn’t matter where he sits!”
She says that while it did take a lot of work to learn to hear again with her implants, she hasn’t looked back. “People think that you hear everything immediately, but it doesn’t work like that…you have to work on it. It takes time,” she says.
While much of Barb’s success can be attributed to her own hard work and commitment, she says that having access to a local service was invaluable. Barb and Sid, who have been married for forty-three years, have made a home in Wollongong and it’s clear they love their local community. Barb says that without the local RIDBC service, she would have to take the three-hour round trip to Sydney to access vital services. ““It is very important to have a local service…it saves having to go to Sydney all the time,” she says.
Now with her implants, Barb says Sid no longer has to act as her third ear and despite being in her sixties when she received the implant, she says her speech has improved dramatically. “People can understand me now. It used to really frustrate me that they couldn’t.”
Sid agrees that the implants have made a big difference; “Since Barb has been implanted, I can see a complete change”.
Barb and Sid are keen travellers, who have been going on cruises since the 1970’s. “I couldn’t tell you how many we have been on,” Barb says. “But we have done four in the last two years, with another booked for the end of this year.”
Barb’s cochlear implants have made a difference to her travelling experiences too. She says, on her last cruise, she could enjoy the activities more. “We went to the movies every afternoon and the concert every evening, it was nice to hear all the words.”
It is clear when sitting with Barb and Sid that while their journey has been a long one, it was founded on supporting each other. “We are always together, and we have always been there for each other.” Sid says.
This Hearing Awareness Week, Barb wants people to know that age isn’t a barrier when it comes to cochlear implants. “Don’t let your hearing loss go. Take a look at your options and, if you can, get it done. For me, cochlear implants have allowed me to hear better and be part of what’s going on. I have more confidence now to meet people.
“You’re never too old,” she concludes.