IN September last year, former Nowra man Steve Whitby underwent a cochlear implant operation.
Deaf since birth, it was the first time in 45 years he had heard the sounds of the world.
Just last week Mr Whitby, who grew up in the Nowra area and attended Nowra East Public School and Nowra High School, received his second cochlear implant.
Associate Professor Catherine Birman performed the delicate procedure at the Macquarie University Hospital at North Ryde in Sydney on August 30.
“The operation was a complete success,” Mr Whitby said.
“Professor Birman has performed over 600 cochlear implants. I’m a little sore but OK.”
The cochlear won’t be turned on until everything has healed. Mr Whitby said he couldn’t wait for this to happen in about three weeks’ time.
“My first cochlear is working well,” he said.
“I can hear sounds and noise such as traffic, the wind blowing, rain, car horns, etc, which I could never hear before.
“It has been an amazing experience to hear the world for the first time.”
Mr Whitby spent the first few weeks after his first implant getting used to being able to hear.
He said at first the implant was switched on to a very low level to allow his brain to get used to hearing sounds.
It has since been turned up louder and he says he is revelling in being able to hear.
“It’s been amazing,” he said.
“It was a bit scary when they first turned the implant on; it felt strange hearing noises.
“It can take from six months to two years but I’m hearing sounds, something I’ve never done before.”
If the sounds are too loud he can turn them down via remote control.
“It may take a couple of years for my brain to understand speech, but that will be better now I have had the second implant,” he said.
The cost of both operations was more than $70,000 and was fully funded by his AHM Health Fund.
Mr Whitby has not let his impairment dampen his enthusiasm for life.
He has worked for the Bankstown City Council for the past 25 years in the Clean City Department.
While in Nowra he was a keen member of the Nowra Cricket Club and after moving to Sydney he represented his country in the Australian deaf team, playing a four test series against England in 1992, which the Aussies won 4-nil.