I have been hard of hearing since I had chickenpox at the age
of three. My hearing decreased over the years until I had only 1%
hearing left in 1994. Despite my being able to lipread extremely
well, the years between 1994 and July 1998 were 4 years of depression
Although I had heard about Cochlear implants before, it has never
occurred to me that it could work for me…..especially as I
had visited an ENT early in 1997 and he did not even mention the
possibility at all. I started surfing on the internet during the
second half of 1997 and a new world opened to me. Here I met dozens
of people who had implants or were in the process of getting one.
One day, when my good friend Maddie from Canada, told me that she
was getting a Cochlear Implant (CI), I suddenly realised that a
CI was something that was a reality....that is was something that
was bringing other deaf people back to the hearing world. And it
made me wonder if I too could also benefit from this wonderful development.
After gaining a lot of information and talking to a lot of CI recipients,
I made an appointment to see Prof. Swart, an ENT who implants CI's
in Pretoria .
On the 25th of March 1998 I underwent all the tests and was announced
an ideal candidate!
This was the first step in my journey to the hearing world. Many
people told me that this was to be the most wonderful journey of
my life. How right they were! It was the beginning of a whole new
A cochlear implant system consists of:
- The implanted part which consists of an array of 22 electrodes
that is placed in the cochlea, a receiver and a magnet.
- The microphone which fits behind the ear and receives the sounds.
- The speech processor which selects and codes the sounds.
- The transmitter, which sends the codes to the receiver, which
converts the codes into electronic signals and sends them to the
electrodes in the cochlea.
From there the impulses are sent to the brain. The transmitter
also has a magnet and is held in place by the magnet in the implanted
In June 1998 a behind the ear system became available in South Africa
for the first time. This left me to make a difficult decision. Should
I take the Sprint, which has a box speechprocessor with four programs
or the ESPrit, the behind the ear model but with only two programs.
After doing some research and talking to quite a few people with
experience with the ESPrit, I had to make my choice when it was
confirmed during the first week of May that the operation would
be done on the 7th of July .
As everybody with the ESPrit that I spoke to were very positive
and happy with it, and also because it is a much more convenient
system to wear, I decided to go for the ESPrit. I reasoned that
at least I will not know what I would be missing by not using the
Sprint. The only problem that had to be solved at this stage, was
to generate enough funds for the CI.
The total costs would have been R120 000 of which the medical insurance
would pay only R14 000. But by staying positive and by working really
hard on several fundraising projects, and through the generosity
of many wonderful friends and family who made donations, we overcame
So, on 6 July 1998 we left for Pretoria, where the operation was
to be done.On arrival the admission and all the neccessary examinations
by Prof. Swart, the ENT surgeon and the anaesthetist by were done
quickly. The required blood tests, X-rays and ECG had already been
done the previous week, so that saved a lot of time.
The next day, 7 July, the implant operation was done and I was
in the theatre for 5 hours. When I woke up for the first time, my
hubby was there... smiling...... and I immediately drifted off again...
For the rest of the day I was awake every now and then for a few
minutes... and then asleep again. I had no pain but was feeling
very nauseous. I was cold and trembling .
8 July: I felt much better than the previous day. Prof. Swart came
and showed me the X-rays of the implant and told me that the electrodes
went in nicely and that he was very satisfied with everything. He
put on a new bandage and said that the incision also looked very
good. It was about 7 cm. long and stretched from the top of my ear
straight upwards. I was surprised....I thought it would be behind
my ear. The stitches could be removed locally in a week's time.
And in a month I could come back for my hookup!
I slept all the way home. I still felt a bit dizzy,
but did not experience any pain at all. But I looked a sorry sight!
My head was bandaged with tufts of hair sticking out, my face was
swollen and my eye was swollen and turning black! Sheeeez!
Me, a few hours after surgery, looking...
not too hot.*L*
On 14 July the stitches were removed and I had my hair cut nice
and short to have it symmetrical again. I felt and looked much better
than a week ago! I was feeling very happy and thankful. I knew that
this CI was the answer to many years' prayers. God was making a
miracle happen in my life. I still had to wait another 3 weeks 'till
the 28th of July for the external parts to be put on and for the
system to be switched on (the hookup). That would be the big day
when I would be able to hear sounds again for the first time in
We left very early for Pretoria on Monday 27th July. My hookup appointment
was scheduled for 10am. During the whole weekend I was tense and
nervous and excited and happy and worried....all rolled in one.
*L* Now at last the wait was almost over!
When we arrived at the university, everybody were waiting and calm
and friendly, so soon I relaxed and my audie started by showing
me my new behind-the-ear CI. I really was surprised at how small
it is...almost the same as a hearing aid and as light as a feather.
Then I was fixed with the SPrint, the box processor, as the programming
has to be done with it. The processor was connected to the computer
with a cable. Firstly she said that she was going to send sounds
through all 22 electrodes to check whether they were all working.
When she asked: do you hear it? and I heard nothing, I felt a sudden
rush of panic! But then suddenly I heard the beeps! They were all
there! (Huge sigh of relief!)
Then she started to set the volume levels for threshold....the softest
volume I could perceive... for each one of the 22 electrodes. This
I found very tiring as one must concentrate very hard. Most of the
times I was not sure whether it was sounds I heard or my tinnitus
blaring away! But at last that was done and she started to set the
comfort levels (the most comfortable volume I could tolerate). That
done, she ran through all 22 electrodes to determine whether they
were all at about the same intensity level. We had to change a few
and then...she said she was going to turn them all on at once...the
actual turn on! Hubby grabbed the camera to take a pic of the great
What excitement! My audie started to talk and it sounded just
like a lot of crickets! High whistling and crackling sounds....but
I could hear what she was saying! And my hubby said something...and
he also sounded like a cricket! Then I spoke...oh dear, I couldn't
believe that it was me making those awful noises! *L* Everybody
was smiling and talking and asking if I could hear them! The whistling
sounds are the 's' sound which I have never heard before. What a
Then we all went to have tea together and I also met another man
who received his CI 4 years ago. He had come to have a map done.
It was very reassuring to be able to speak to him. He says he uses
his cellphone with no problem at all, though he cannot listen to
After this, Peet and I left and we decided to go to the zoo for
the rest of the day. When we came outside, the sound of traffic
was overwhelming. I could hear a motorcycle passing. Our car's indicators
were quite loud. At the zoo we walked and I listened to all the
different sounds....birds, animals, water running, the water sprinkler
making tj.tj.tj.tj.tj.krrrrrrrrr! *L* Peet's voice was becoming
less high pitched by then. He was beginning to sound more like a
frog than a cricket! His cellphone rang and for the first time I
could hear it. If I looked at him I could understand everything
he said, but I could not discriminate words yet without lipreading.
In the evening we visited friends. I helped Petra to prepare a salad
and when I cut the lettuce it sounded like it screamed! *L* I heard
the kettle whistling and the cuckoo clock against the wall ticking.
I got quite a fright when that little bird started cuckooing above
my head! Although I could follow all that was being said, I could
not discriminate between men and women's voices. They all sounded
high pitched and static.
The next day, Tuesday, I went back for another map. This map was
much better than the first one. Now I could discriminate between
men and women's voices. My audie made two maps and put them on program
one and two (the two settings on the BTE) so that I could try out
both and see which one works best for me.
From the audie, Peet and I went to a big shopping mall. First we
went to a restaurant to eat something. This was a very noisy experience....lots
of voices, cutlery on the plates, a perculator bubbling in the background....I
had to ask Peet everytime what it was that I was hearing! *L* Then
we went to see a movie...'The man with the Iron Mask'. I could follow
about 30% of what was being said...a huge improvement! It was really
On Friday we returned for the last mapping before returning home.
This one was still better than the previous ones. Again my audie
made two maps for programs one and two. The next map will be in
a month's time. On our way home Peet started to 'train' me to listen
without lipreading. He would say words and sentences and then I
must tell him what he said. It got better the longer we did it.
I would have to practice quite a lot in the coming weeks.
Back at home, the first thing I heard was my dogs barking and panting!
(What a racket!!) Then I heard my daughter and my father's voices.
And the telephone ringing. And what a noisy thing a computer is!!
*L* But it was a wonderful experience! A miracle! Although everything
still sounded very unnatural, high pitched and tinny, it did not
matter because I could hear. And I knew that it would get better
It is now 17 days since my hookup, and I am still enjoying this
noisy world. I am constantly asking whoever happens to be near:
What is that? and What makes that sound? and Did you HEAR that!?!?!
The other day I quite forgot myself and while our pastor was talking
to our bible study group, I told him: Shhhh! Listen!!! I blushed
when I realised what I did!! *L* Luckily everybody laughed!
I have the Nucleus 24 behind the ear model (ESPrit). It's marvelous!
It's easier to put on than an hearing aid. It takes me less than
a minute. It has a little switch for off, program 1 and program
2. It also has a little 'wheel' that you can turn to adjust the
sensitivity/volume. It has an automatic volume control. When I enter
a very noisy place like a shopping mall or so, the volume goes down.
The only problem with this is that the voices also get softer, but
I haven't yet not been able to hear/understand people, so it hasn't
bothered me yet.
I am very satisfied with the battery life. The BTE uses two 675
activair batteries and they last 5-6 days. When the batteries are
finished, they die suddenly, but when I switch them off and on again,
they will last another 10-15 minutes before dying again, giving
me enough time to replace them. This can be repeated a few times
before they are really as dead as a dodo.
The quality of the sounds I hear varies. Voices still sound mechanical
and static, although not as high pitched anymore. I can clearly
discriminate between men's and women's voices and I can understand
voices very well. I still rely on lipreading, but find that I can
now and then hear words and short sentences without looking. It
is definitely improving. The other day I listened to my son's voice
on my hubby's cellphone. It was loud and clear although I could
still not discriminate individual words. But I am quite confident
that I will be able to speak on the phone sometime in the future.
Music still sounds awful. I bought myself a portable CD and tapeplayer
and when I have time I listen to music CD's and story tapes. I think
music will improve with a better map....at least I hope it will!
Every place I go is a new experience. I found out that the study,
where my hubby and I each have our own computer and where we all
watch TV and relax, is a VERY noisy place! The computer goes click,
click, click, ping, poing, poop poop! My hubby's chair needs lubrication
URGENTLY! It screetches everytime he moves! The parrot talks and
screetches constantly and in the background are the sounds from
the TV. The telephones ring every now and then and I love to watch
my hubby when he talks on the phone, because now, for the first
time I can understand what he says! My dogs are so noisy...I hear
them pant when they get excited and their barking is quite a racket!
Yesterday I went to Pick and Pay to buy groceries. Now THAT is a
noisy store with the constant ringing of cash registers, the sound
of heels on the floor , trollies that squeek as you push them and
Outside I can hear the birds , dogs barking and cars and motorcycles
passing in the street. The other day I was standing outside listening
to the different bird sounds going peep, peep, peep and pe-pe-pe-peeep!
pe-pe-pe-peeep!, when I suddenly heard one that went halloo! halloo!
I was fascinated! Just as it went halloo! again, my Dad touched
my shoulder and said halloo once more!! We had a good laugh! *L*
Life is smiling at me once more!
Today something amazing happened. The phone rang, and there was
nobody nearby to answer it. So I nervously decided to give it try.
And I clearly heard my daughter's friend say: Hello mrs. Adendorff.
Can I please speak to Anita? I were stunned! Could this be happening
to me? Yes! It could and it was! Another step on this amazing journey
to the hearing world!
Today it is exactly 6 months since my CI had been switched on. It
was six months of living in a whole new wonderful world. I would
often just stand still and turn my head in all directions....listening
to all the environmental sounds....the birds singing, the leaves
rustling in the wind, the rain pattering on the roof. I started
playing bowls a few months ago and it is just wonderful to listen
to all the sounds: the balls bumping against each other, people
calling out, the sound of my footsteps on the grass.....
My recent holiday in Cape Town was one of the greatest experiences
I've had in a very long time. All my kids were together with their
friends/wife/fiancee and I could hear most of what everybody was
saying. I could just sit silently for hours and listen to their
I find that many of the environmental sounds I had heard in the
beginning was now fading away in the background and that I was hearing
the more important sounds clearer now. I am speaking on the phone
more often and I find that a cellular phone is much clearer and
easier to use than the ordinary phone. Music is getting better,
but is still not as it should sound. I have been encouraged a lot
by a friend who told me that it took her 9months before music became
beautiful to her, Sounds with a CI is known to still improve even
after years of using it. A strange thing that I experience with
my CI however, is that I have no sense of the direction from where
sounds come. I would clearly hear someone calling my name, but I
would have no idea from what direction it comes. *S*
It is difficult to describe the emotions that one experiences when
you can hear again after so many years of silence. The biggest emotion,
however, is overwhelming thankfulness towards God who has heard
and answered many years' prayers and had given me a whole new life.
Today I celebrated the first year of being able to hear again! It
was 365 incredible days of wonderful experiences and pure happiness!
I have been leading a normal life once more, I can hear and understand
people, I can communicate on the phone....and.....at last....I can
enjoy music again!
In March I received a variety of accessories from Cochlear that
can be used with the ESPrit. One can remove the battery cover from
the processor and replace it with the audio cover which is only
a little bit bigger than the battery cover, and where you can plug
in the accessory you want to use. There is a lapel microphone, a
TV/Hi-Fi cable, a telecoil and a personal audio cable which can
be used in various circumstances. The only one that I use, is the
audio cable that connects my CD player to my processor. This brought
such an improvement to the quality of music that I am founding it
a pleasure to listen to music again after battling so long with
awful distorted sounds! *S* Another little miracle!
On the 5th of July I celebrated my 51st birthday and me and Peet's
30th wedding anniversary. Lot's of family and friends phoned from
all over and it was the first time that I could hear each and everyone
of them! Many people couldn't believe that it was actually me that
they were talking to! It was quite an emotional experience and a
lot of tears flowed!
This year (1999) I've had two maps...in March and July...and each
time it made a difference. Sounds just keep improving.
I don't think I will ever be able to stop talking about the miracle
a cochlear implant is!
Today it has been 18 months since my hookup. It has been 18 months
of pure joy! I never think of myself as a deaf person anymore, although
I do get reminded of that sometimes. My CI's batteries can go flat
at the most awkward times, leaving me with the certain knowledge
that I'm still as deaf as I used to be! *L But Cochlear's ESPrit
has the very useful feature that it gives a series of beeps when
the batteries are almost flat. This leaves one with enough time
to replace the batteries in time. Thing is...I must learn to pay
heed to the warning! *L*
Sounds are, surprisingly, still improving. Music have improved quite
a lot over the past 6 months and I am slowly building up my own
CD collection....something I never thought would be possible! Most
background noises are automatically ignored by my brain, which makes
conversation in a noisy environment much easier. Going to the movies
and socialising with friends are some of the great pleasures in
my life that I can now once more enjoy.