IT had been nearly a decade since Bob Ross had been able to tune into his favourite radio station, but he’s been happily singing along since being fitted with the next generation cochlear implant.
The Corrimal resident was one of 21 adult Australians to trial Cochlear’s Nucleus 6 implant, which is now widely available after its launch last month.
Powered by a new custom-designed microchip – the SmartSound iQ – the device automatically adjusts to different sound environments to deliver a more natural hearing experience.
For Mr Ross, 67, it means he can not only listen to his favourite country rock music again, he can also cope in crowded environments like busy restaurants and shopping centres once more.
‘‘Thanks to the N6, for the first time since 2004 I can play music and listen to the radio in my car and at home,’’ he said.
‘‘And it means I’ve been able to go back to the [Fraternity Club] for a regular meal – prior to having the N6 I couldn’t handle any place where there was lots of people and lots of noise.’’
Mr Ross first realised he had a hearing problem in 2000 when friends made it clear they were sick of repeating themselves, and in 2002 he was fitted with digital hearing aids in both ears.
By 2006 however, his hearing had diminished further and he was forced to retire from driving taxis and limousines as he could no longer follow the conversations with his passengers.
Retirement was hard for the active senior so when, in April 2009, he received his first cochlear implant he viewed it as ‘‘a second chance at life’’.
One year later he was fitted with his second cochlear implant and then in June last year he was invited to take part in the trial of Cochlear’s latest model.
‘‘Having the N5 cochlear implants opened me up to a wonderful hearing world, but now with the N6 I’ve been able to enjoy an even greater level of hearing,’’ Mr Ross said. ‘‘The improvements are just awesome.’’
Cochlear chief executive Chris Roberts said the Nucleus 6 was the company’s smartest system yet, using the world-first SCAN program to automatically process different sounds and situations.
‘‘With Nucleus 6, we have built on our long history of innovation in sound processing to give our recipients the best technology available, so they can hear their best in real world hearing situations,’’ Dr Roberts said.
‘‘[It] is also capable of operating as a hearing aid and a Cochlear implant system simultaneously.
‘‘This has the benefit of boosting a recipient’s remaining natural hearing and combining it with the electrical hearing provided by the implant, so they can hear clearer and crisper sound,’’ Dr Roberts said.