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Age no barrier to restoring your hearing, says 88yo Hunter influencer

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Less than 12 months ago, 88-year-old Hunter man Gordon Robertson was resigned to the idea of losing his hearing.

Although he wore aids, they were working less and less.

The TV volume got louder and louder and his conversations become fewer and fewer. 

“I just assumed I was too old for a cochlear implant operation,” he says. 

Morisset’s Gordon Robertson is thankful for his cochlear implants. Photo: Peter Stoop

But, after being assessed by Broadmeadow-based not-for-profit organisation NextSense, Gordon was surprised to learn he was a suitable candidate for implants.

And, he discovered people into their 90s could find the devices beneficial, too.

In 2023, the Morisset resident received an implant after an overnight stay in hospital.

This World Hearing Day (Sunday 3 March), he wants to influence others in his generation not to accept hearing loss as an inevitable part of ageing.

In fact, he’s encouraging people to explore their options, whether it’s hearing aids or cochlear implants, to find what works for them.  

“My daughter tells me she notices a big difference,” Gordon says.

“The TV volume doesn’t have to be turned up to blasting anymore and we can have a conversation with each other in the car without having to look at each other.

“It’s the little things you always take for granted – it’s great to have that back again – I feel more in charge of my life again.”  

The World Health Organization observes World Hearing Day each year to change mindsets on hearing loss.

It says over a third is preventable, while 80% of hearing needs go unmet.

However, it highlights deeply ingrained societal misperceptions and stigmatising mindsets limit efforts for preventing and addressing this. 

In Australia, hearing loss costs $40 billion.

It is linked to social isolation, falls and an increased risk of dementia.

Despite its impact, awareness about hearing loss options is low. 

Gordon was in his 40s when a long run of serious ear infections started to affect his hearing and he began using aids.

He taught himself to lip-read and a mastoidectomy later in life delivered temporary relief, but his hearing continued to disappear.

He’s had his share of other health challenges, too.

Polio as a child left him with heart issues, he has to be careful about blood pressure and needs a walker to get around. 

But, that hasn’t dampened his energy and enthusiasm, which he applied in spades to do the practice needed to adjust to the implants.

Gordon found the whole idea of surgery daunting, however he was surprised it was straightforward.

The real work started after with rehabilitation. But his detail-oriented career as an accountant and company secretary came in handy. 

“At the start I could hear myself talking as if I was in a cave or a hollow room,” he said.

“That was adjusted quickly and then my NextSense therapists started my auditory training – learning to recognise letters, short words and then longer sentences all over again. 

“The education program was clearly set out for me at the very beginning and I was able to step through sounds, words then sentences.

“I even asked my next-door neighbour to help with dictation.

“All the effort is really paying off. 

“Just a few years ago I was getting to the point where I didn’t enjoy getting into a conversation because I could not always hear what was going on.

“Being around people is much, much better than it was.”

A Discover Hearing Implants information session will take place for those who want to learn more at the NextSense Broadmeadow premises on 14 March at 10am.  

Key facts: Hearing loss and the Hunter’s ageing population 

  • About 3.6 million Australians live with hearing loss – including one in three people over 65 
  • Hearing loss will present increasing challenges for an ageing Hunter population: Nearly one-in-five Hunter residents are 65 or over – higher than the state and national average
  • The number of Australians with hearing loss is expected to double by 2060 
  • Hearing loss costs the country more than $40 billion in financial costs and lost wellbeing. It is linked to social isolation, falls, and an increased risk of dementia
  • While 90% of children who could benefit from a cochlear implant access one, only 10% of adults do – even though they’re far the largest group affected by hearing loss

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