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Bradley rediscovers the miracle of sound

Thanks to an operation which gave him a cochlear implant last year, Echuca’s Bradley McGillivray has been rediscovering a lot of forgotten sounds.

MONIQUE PRESTON January 10, 2013 4:40am

Echuca's Bradley McGillivray with Murray Human Services Outreach support worker Debbie Tye.


Most of us would pay no attention to the sound of a sprinkler, but for Bradley McGillivray it is one of a range of sounds forming part of a new world for him.

Since receiving a cochlear implant late last year, the Echuca resident has been able to hear noises from objects which until now had been silent.

The flushing of the toilet and the ringing of a doorbell are also sounds he had not previously heard.

Bradley, 31, has been deaf in his right ear for most of his life.

It is not known if he was born that way, or if his hearing was affected when he was hit by a car at the age of one or two.

In July last year, Bradley lost the little hearing he had in his left ear.

Fortunately, Bradley was seen as a prime candidate for a cochlear implant as he had previously been able to hear and would not have to learn everything from scratch.

He also works at Safeway as a bakery assistant and holding a job was one of the reasons Bradley was put on a priority list for the operation that would not only restore his hearing, but give him more hearing than he previously had.

On November 7, he had the cochlear implant inserted at Melbourne’s Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital.

He had to stay at the hospital for two nights and is now part-way through a process that will take about six months to complete.

Rather than overwhelming a cochlear implant recipient with a barrage of noises all at once, the implant is turned on in stages, with different sounds becoming audible each time.

Doing it this way means the patient’s brain is able to process noises more easily.

The initial noises that are introduced are mainly environmental ones.

‘‘I can hear horns, knocking on doors and the television,’’ Bradley said.

‘‘(When watching television) I can hear it clearly.’’

Since receiving the implant, Bradley said his world had become ‘‘pretty noisy’’.

Among the noises he has adapted to has been the sound of his own voice, which he said sounded robotic at first.

One of the strangest noises Bradley said he had heard was a baby crying on a train.

‘‘It was screaming,’’ he said.

As part of the ongoing process after the operation, Bradley had to travel to the hospital in Melbourne once a week initially, with the visits stretching to fortnightly and then further apart.

Bradley said one of the best things about having the implants was regaining his independence.

When he lost his hearing completely in July, the normal eight hours a week of help through Murray Human Services’ Outreach service had to increase greatly, he said.

MHS outreach support worker Debbie Tye has been to most of Bradley’s hospital appointments with him and has helped him through the process.

‘‘I couldn’t believe how quickly he lost his hearing. It just went like that,’’ she said.

‘‘Bradley lost a lot of his confidence when he lost his hearing.’’

Since having the operation, she said Bradley had gained much of this confidence back.

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