- Melanie Louden
Frustration turns to confidence thanks to cochlear implant
Kay Bloomfield-Bevin was 30 when she suddenly lost her hearing. But that wasn’t the only thing she lost.
Her hearing loss affected her relationships, she became a recluse and in the coming years it resulted in the breakdown of her marriage.
Twenty-one years later she got her first cochlear implant – her world has changed so much she wishes she’d done it sooner.
Kay and her husband were share milkers in Eltham, Taranaki. She had a 9-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son.
One day when she was working on the farm she cut her arm. That’s when everything changed.
Kay, now 60, was “deaf as a post” within days of a medical misadventure.
“It happened really quickly. I just went downhill, fast. Everything sounded strange. We had visitors and I thought everything sounded tinny. The next day it was almost all gone.
“It was horrible….horrible.”
Kay says her initial reaction was to just get stuck in and carry on with life.
“I kept milking and farming. I just kept going.
“It doesn’t really hit you until way down the line. The reality hits that you are deaf. I remember crying my eyes out in the milking shed three years later.”
Kay couldn’t communicate with people so life became very isolated for her. She stopped her role as a dressage judge, she couldn’t attend meetings, school concerts or socialise with her friends.
“I was a real recluse. I never stepped out anywhere.”
She did, however, join an adult riding group.
“When I lost my hearing I took up riding because I had nothing else. I went back to riding – in fact I thank my hearing loss for that. Every cloud has a silver lining.
“They were so good to me. While I was on a horse I didn’t need to talk to people. The people I knew before….they really struggled with me.”
Kay says her hearing loss was particularly hard on her daughter.
“My son grew up with me being deaf, but my daughter was nine. I used to talk to my daughter all the time. But then I couldn’t.
“There was frustration on both sides – I couldn’t hear and I got the words mixed up. I misinterpreted her words, I was on the wrong track and she would have been frustrated as well.”
Kay was 51 when she got her first cochlear implant, funded through ACC.
“I dragged my feet big time because I had no idea what I’d get out of it. I was really frightened. In the end I thought, ‘what have I got to lose?’. My sister supported me and pushed me.”
Kay remembers walking up One Tree Hill in Auckland the day her implant was switched on. In an effort to help her get used to the new sound she counted her steps and kept repeating the numbers until she recognised the sound. It didn’t take her long at all to get used to it.
“It was amazing. Absolutely amazing. All I wanted to do was talk to people and talk on the phone.
“I couldn’t believe what I had missed out on. That first implant was a real step forward.
“I had to learn to be social again. I’d forgotten how to socialise.”
This new lease on life enabled Kay to return to dressage judging.
“It gave me the boost I needed.”
Kay received her second implant in June 2018. This one took a little longer for her to adjust to, but she hasn’t looked back.
“I can hear people without looking at them. I can walk down the road and know there is a vehicle behind me. I can get the direction of sound now. I wish I’d done it ages ago.”
She has also noticed she is no longer so reliant on other people to help her, or do things for her.
Kay says that following her surgeries, the death of her mother earlier in 2018 and the sale of her family home she is now getting back into things.
“I’m at that place of saying ‘now where do I go?’.
“I’m much much much, 100 per cent, 200 per cent more confident.”
Kay has also been able to go on her first overseas holiday.
“I never would have gone to Rarotonga if I didn’t have a cochlear implant.”
Kay says staff from the adult cochlear implant team at The Hearing House have been “marvellous” and she encourages anyone contemplating getting cochlear implants to go ahead.
“They don’t realise what they are missing out on.”