Rocking his CI - Richard’s story
Four years ago, the course of Richard Green's life took a dramatic turn when he was struck by a car while crossing Auckland’s College Hill at 11 o'clock one Wednesday morning after a meeting.
The accident left him with multiple injuries, and as he lay in hospital, he noticed something was wrong with his hearing. “It felt weird," he recounted to the trauma surgeon at the time.
Tragically, he would later learn that the impact of the accident had caused him to lose all hearing in his left ear. Over the following six months, Richard explored various options to help improve his ability to hear.
Hearing aids seemed like a logical choice, but they fell short, especially in the context of his work in the creative and events industries, where multi-tasking in noisy, busy environments is crucial.
Richard is at the helm of the arts organisation He Waka Eke Noa Charitable Trust, where he orchestrates a vibrant array of events and festivals, spearheads the nationally renowned Ugly Shakespeare Company, and oversees Kete Aronui, a dynamic creative space in Onehunga. Now they have opened their theatre space too, The Factory Theatre, which again requires multiple demands on his hearing at one time.
He found himself getting demoralised - and exhausted - by his lack of hearing. Work became a struggle.
Last year, his audiologist encouraged him to try a cochlear implant. As Richard researched what was involved with the implant technology and rehabilitation, he was surprised by the information and recommendations about cochlear implants that he read in articles and on websites. Suggestions included keeping the processor under a scarf, hat or long hair to keep it hidden. This ran contrary with Richard's vibrant and confident style, characterised by a mohawk, piercings, and colourful clothing. He made the conscious decision that he wasn’t going to let an implant change his style. Six months later, Richard had the surgery to have a cochlear implant fitted on his left side.
Supported by The Hearing House, Richard says he’s learning to process sound while at the same time managing his energy levels.
“It's quite challenging," Richard admits. "It's something you've got to learn to live with, but the support I've had from The Hearing House has been incredible."
The organisation offered insights into rehabilitation, fostered a sense of community through its networking outreach and ensured he was supported every step of the way. Amidst the challenges of adapting to a new experience of hearing, Richard found solace in his love for music. He discovered that with his new cochlear implant, he could once again relish the crystal-clear melodies of his cherished vinyl collection. With his trademark self-expression, Richard has seamlessly woven his cochlear implant into his distinctive style. His collection of colourful kilts is co-ordinated with a range of differently coloured implant sleeves. Ever the creative visionary, Richard has bigger plans on the horizon. He envisions 3-D printing and designing a series of personalised vinyl sheets to adorn the sleeves of fellow cochlear implant wearers, adding a unique flair to each user’s experience. At a recent event, someone stopped him to admire his "pimped-up CI," declaring it the coolest they had ever seen.
Richard's response to praise such as this is simple but profound: "I can still be my own person with a cochlear implant, and I treasure that."