Following an attack in her teenage years, Ita Carroll suffered damage to her auditory system which resulted in a steady deterioration in her hearing range requiring hearing aids. In a further twist of fate, a few years later on her 21st birthday, Ita was diagnosed as having a serious eye condition which affected her central vision. With only limited peripheral vision, Ita was declared legally blind.
Despite these enormous setbacks, Ita continued on with her life, changing career, having a young family and starting her own charity to build a training restaurant in Midleton in Cork.
She remembers when the hearing went completely in her left ear in 2008, she told no-one in the hope that she would be able to manage. But the following year, the hearing in the right ear also failed and Ita found herself profoundly deaf, legally blind and a single mother in the care of two small children, including one with special needs. She had no choice but to have her children taken into care as she could no longer care for them.
Unlike a regular hearing aid, where the sound can be turned up and is picked up by the hair cells in the hearing organ, a cochlear implant provides an electrical signal directly to the auditory nerve, which may be more effective in some cases.
Ita was seen by the staff in the Cochlear Implant programme at Beaumont Hospital and the process was explained to her through palm spelling as delivering “a different type of hearing”. She would require two operations, one per ear to implant the internal parts of the cochlear implant under the skin.
Says Ita, “I knew I had to remain positive about the operation and confident in the staff performing it. The staff aren’t the only ones with a job to do. The patient has to resolve themselves to success and put the work in to make it all come together.”
In Ita’s case, regaining her hearing meant regaining her children and also her great love of traditional music which she had formerly been cut off from. She says, “I would much rather be completely blind than profoundly deaf”.
She remembers being in Beaumont Hospital for the tuning in of her implant and how, as she says, “Lo and behold, I could hear again!” She felt she literally had to sing with joy.
Within 40 hours of the cochlear implant external processor being tuned in, Ita was able to understand 58% of what was said to her. And after 1 week, testing with the Cochlear Implant team showed that speech understanding had increased to 84%. Her life was turned around and after a few months of tuning and listening practice her children were returned to her care. Not only was her hearing restored but her family also. Ita is the first person in Ireland who is registered as deaf/blind to have started their own business.
Speaking about the support she received from Beaumont Hospital, Ita says, “I can’t begin to tell you what the operation has meant to me. During my time in Beaumont when I was very much alone seeing as I came up from Cork, the staff on St. Anne’s Ward became my friends. They were there to reassure me and keep me company when I was low. I still pop back to say hello when I have to go for check-ups and they always make time to have a chat and say hello”.
Beaumont Hospital’s Cochlear Implant Programme performs 100% of all cochlear implant procedures in the Republic of Ireland as well as providing long term multidisciplinary follow-up care.