I grew up fit and healthy and was encouraged to take advantage of all the opportunities available. In 1998 I completed high school and joined the Royal Australian Navy. As far as I was concerned life was just beginning and everything was going to plan.
But it all came unstuck in early 2000 when I had an ear infection. Little did I know this simple infection would change who I was as well as my plans for the future.
To combat the infection I took many courses of antibiotics. My ear drum perforated and I had a constant discharge from my left ear. After being prescribed even more antibiotics I had my first surgery. This seemed to clear things up and the Navy relocated me to Sydney.
Things were looking up, but it didn't last long. The infection reappeared and I became a twenty year old with a grommet. The infection didn't let up. After another operation I suffered from tinnitus and mild hearing loss.
Further surgery and once again two weeks later the infection was back. I wondered what I had done to deserve it. I became depressed, lost my confidence, struggled to concentrate and was always tired. The tinnitus got worse and I couldn't hear on my left side. A new specialist promised to get me well and after that he would treat my tinnitus and hearing loss.
By now the Navy decided a career on the water wasn't a good place for me so I received a medical discharge. Between 2003 and 2005 I was at my lowest. The tinnitus was severe and my hopes and dreams were shattered. I had to concentrate to hear if someone was on my left side. I isolated myself. By avoiding group environments like pubs, clubs and restaurants I saved myself from either embarrassment for saying the wrong thing as I misheard or being thought of as rude for ignoring a question.
But in 2005 the infection returned. Once more I had a mastoidectomy but this time my ear canal was closed. This meant the end to infection but it also destroyed my residual hearing and ensured the tinnitus continued unabated. But I was determined to regain my life.
I learnt a lot about myself; it was no one's fault I became sick and I was not alone. Then one day it was suggested I trial a Baha®. I'd already had so much surgery I was against any more, but wondered what it would be like in my new job if I could hear. Although I promised myself the Baha® wasn't for me because I was doing really well with my career and hadn't felt this good in years, I still made the appointment.
Words can never capture the moment. Even with a Baha® on a headband I could hear so much more than I had for years. I knew it was for me and immediately booked in for surgery.
Three months later I received my Baha® processor. It was instantly amazing. I could even hear soft sounds. I no longer had to worry about missing a conversation or where I was going to sit in a room. My Baha® goes everywhere. I wear it from the moment I get out of the shower till I go to bed. I can hear and I feel normal for the first time in years.