Tobin Fonseca

Location: Australia
Age at Implantation: 41-64 years
Hearing Loss Type: Suspected Meniere’s disease

Tobin Fonesca's personal cochlear implant story
Profession: Chief Operations Officer, mortgage insurance company
Cochlear Implant/s: Nucleus 6 (left side)
When implanted: February 2013

In 2012 Tobin Fonseca boarded a plane with full hearing and disembarked hearing in only one ear.

"The dramatic shift from being able to hear, to single sided deafness was a big adjustment," says Tobin. "I don’t think people realise how traumatic it is to lose hearing on one side. I found myself becoming very frustrated and agitated at my hearing loss. It was virtually impossible to even know that I was being spoken to, let alone hear what was being said."

Tobin was diagnosed with suspected Meniere’s disease and his hearing in his left ear never recovered.

"With only single sided hearing, I found many day to day activities difficult. I am the chief operations officer for a major Australian mortgage insurance company and the ability to do my job was absolutely impacted," he says. "It was difficult to hear in meetings and I lost the ability to determine sound direction. Even communicating with my executive assistant who sits 1.5m from my desk on my left was near impossible.

"I couldn’t hear properly when I went to a restaurant, nor attend any type of work or social function. At home my partner would speak to me while walking away and it was impossible for me to hear."

Tobin says his hearing loss was also exacerbated by loud day to day noises, and because he was unable to distinguish direction of the noise, it was often difficult to know what caused the sound.

"I think it’s hard for people to understand the issues associated with single sided deafness," he adds.

Tobin tried a few hearing devices which didn’t really help, so he made the decision to have a cochlear implant. Within four months, he was fitted with an implant through SCIC Cochlear Implant Program, an RIDBC service.

"The first thing I heard at switch on was my audiologist Leanne Babic’s feet walking across the carpet. It was strange because it was such a faint sound but something that previously I couldn’t hear. Even today I notice that when I don’t have my cochlear implant on, half of the sounds in my world disappear," he says.

Tobin credits his cochlear implant as one of the highlights in his life. 

"I am so grateful that there was something that could help me after experiencing such a life emergency. When my cochlear implant was switched on, I was lucky to have almost complete integration," Tobin says. "The first thing I did when I got home was play the piano - something I was unable to do before because I couldn’t hear the complete range of the piano. I had tears in my eyes just hearing the entire sound made by the piano."

Before the implant Tobin found his hearing impairment was affecting his physical health.

"I noticed myself becoming withdrawn from social situations," he explains. "I didn’t want to go out or be in a situation that required me to hear. I think if I had not received an implant, I would have suffered from some form of depression. That has all changed now.

"The benefits I have had as a result of my cochlear implant are many. I know where sounds are coming from. I can hear in meetings; I can hear at social gatherings; I can hear music. My sound/voice and word recognition are as good as my non-implanted ear. My family and friends are all delighted at my hearing since receiving my cochlear implant.

"My assistant at work noticed the improvement from the first day. I no longer repeat the word ‘What?’ quite as much as I did before I was implanted!"

After switch on, Tobin called his surgeon Dr Kong from Crows Nest ENT and told him his prayers had been answered.

"I experienced a true miracle. My implant has far exceeded what I thought would be possible after losing my hearing," he says. "I know that if I lose the hearing in my right ear, I will be OK. It’s wonderful to already have had the opportunity to recommend a cochlear implant."

 

Please seek advice from your medical practitioner or health professional about treatments for hearing loss. They will be able to advise on a suitable solution for the hearing loss condition. All products should be used only as directed by your medical practitioner or health professional. 

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