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Graham - 1978

Graeme Clark and Graham Carrick
Professor Graeme Clark and Cochlear implant recipient Graham Carrick

A fun trip to the local tip with dad and pop became a rush to the hospital for four-year-old Graham Carrick, when he badly burnt his legs and required strong doses of pain medication. While his legs eventually healed, the medication he had received had permanently damaged the fine hairs in his inner ear that help register sound, leaving Graham with significant hearing loss.

“I was about seven or eight years old when my parents enrolled me in the Glendonald School for the Deaf and my brother started taking me to speech therapy so I could learn to talk and learn lip reading.”

A workplace incident at the age of 21 impacted his remaining hearing and Graham was then diagnosed as profoundly deaf. His time with the Glendonald School fortunately enabled him to continue communicating with those around him.

“I was profoundly deaf when I met my wife Kathy at 27 and she found it almost unbelievable, I could understand what people said, I spoke well and most people I met never know I was deaf,” he says.

“Then we started to have a family and I missed out on hearing my kids’ voices as babies. When my daughter was 18 months old she realised I was deaf and would pull my chin around so I was facing her when she spoke so I could hear what she said.”

An infection in his ear lead Graham to a specialist in Collins Street, who mentioned Professor Graeme Clark was currently looking for a profoundly deaf patient with the ability to read lips.

“That was the start of this fantastic journey. There were six of us involved in the clinical trial for the Cochlear implant. I can recall getting my first speech processor; it was something like a cigar box – a gold box.

“My very first switch on was an important one, as there was a lot riding on its success. For ten minutes I didn’t hear anything, everyone in the room was just looking at the ground. Somehow, suddenly, I heard a ‘ding, dong’ sound and I looked at Professor Clark and said ‘I heard a dong’.

“I just broke down. This was the first time I had heard a sound in 17 years. I never thought I would be able to hear again and I did,” he says.

Graham worked closely with audiologists at the Eye and Ear, to ensure the implant was registering sounds at the correct pitch.

“From that day on there was a bit of back and forth to the hospital doing tests. The audiologists who worked with us were fantastic people. They had to work hard and have a lot of patience, we worked together to work out sounds and it wasn’t easy.

“We were learning from each other, really.”

After almost five years working closely with the audiologists to tune the device, Graham experienced the breakthrough the team had been waiting for and taught himself to stop relying on lip reading.

“I can remember the day I first heard my daughter’s voices very well. That was an exciting thing to happen, when you haven’t heard your daughters for 13 years. I never heard them when they were babies.

“When I see how the implant brightens the world up for the little children who have it, I feel so proud that I’ve done it and so worthwhile. To see these children get their hearing back and be able to communicate in the hearing world – I can’t express
it properly how it makes me feel.”