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  • Writer's pictureThe Hearing House

Christchurch grandmother has a new lease on life, thanks to her cochlear implants

Seventy-one-year-old Lily Chai may be retired, but her pace of life hasn’t slowed up any.  


Mandarin lessons, trips to visit family in Australia, cooking, baking, catching up with friends and reading - whenever time allows – are just some of things high on her agenda these days. 


Lily and her husband Francis emigrated to New Zealand from Malaysia in the 1990s and settled with their school-aged children in Christchurch.  


A few years later, Lily started to have a little hearing loss.  


“I wasn't too worried about it initially, but sometimes I was unable to catch the Kiwi pronunciation properly.”  


As her hearing deteriorated, particularly in her right ear, Lily got hearing aids, but she still had problems. 


A social and outgoing person, Lily became reserved and uncomfortable about mixing with others due to her declining hearing.   


“I didn’t feel confident to meet people because how many times can you ask a person to repeat what they are trying to tell you?” 


She had cochlear implant surgery in April 2009, just as the leaves on Christchurch’s oak trees were turning. 


She remembers the trees clearly, as the sounds of the birds singing and chirping in the trees was so lovely that she stood and just listened for five minutes. 


Lily was working for an insurance broker at the time, and she says she was very grateful for the understanding and support from her former employers and colleagues. With the aid of her implant-enabled communication on the phone and in person, she was able to increase her role from data entry to include communicating directly with clients.  


 “It opened up a whole new world for me,” she says. 


Lily loves the independence and confidence that cochlear implants have given her, but she says her greatest joy is being able to hear the babbling of her toddler grandson via video clips sent to her from Australia. 


Learning Mandarin is another achievement which she would have struggled with previously. 


“I wouldn’t be able to do this without the cochlear implant,” she says, as the tonal differentiations in the language would be impossible to decipher.  


Lily is very appreciative of the help she received from SCIP, especially the audiologists and rehabilitationists, over the years as she trained her brain to recognise sounds once again. 


“They’re an awesome team,” she says.  “I always feel very comfortable talking to them as they’re very patient and understanding, and give invaluable advice, guidance, and support so freely. 


“My audiologist is so dedicated and committed to her job. Her ability to handle even the most challenging situations with professionalism and grace has exceeded all my expectations.  


“Whenever I have a problem, I know I can count on her to sort it out.” 


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