Technology restores sound 30 years later for Warwick woman

HEAR HEAR: To Karine Preston the whole world now sounds different.
HEAR HEAR: To Karine Preston the whole world now sounds different. Jonno Colfs

FOR 33 years Warwick woman Karine Preston was unable to hear anything through her left ear. That is, until last week.

Ground-breaking technology has restored her hearing decades after doctors told Miss Preston there was no chance she'd ever hear from that side again.

With the help of a small sound processor that clips onto an abutment screwed into her skull, soundwaves can now travel through the nerves and bone to her brain, restoring her long-lost hearing.

As a child, Miss Preston was a keen swimmer and prone to ear infections.

"I seemed to have them all the time as a kid," she said.

"Dad was in the army and we moved around a lot so it was hard to keep track of just how frequent they were, there was no real record if it.

"I had a perforation in the top of my eardrum so water would get in but was unable to get out.

"Finally, when I was 12, a lovely doctor in Newcastle saw the issue and sent me to a specialist."

What followed was a complete reconstruction of Miss Preston's left ear, leaving her without both a middle ear and any chance of hearing.

Miss Preston said she lost all sense of balance after the surgery.

"I was like a ragdoll," she said. "I took about six weeks off school and then I was fine and got on with my life.

"I had 100% hearing in my right ear so I quickly got used to living like that and most people who've met me probably would have no idea I could only hear out of the one ear."

In March this year, a middle ear infection took Miss Preston to her local GP, who forwarded her on to an ear, nose and throat specialist in Toowoomba.

"He checked me out and cleaned up," Miss Preston said. "And while I was seeing him he mentioned I could be a candidate for the bone-conduction hearing procedure."

Then in June, Miss Preston was sent to the neuro-sensory department at the Medici Centre in Toowoomba to confirm her suitability for the surgery.

On August 3 Miss Preston had the 45-minute procedure to install the abutment into her skull.

"I didn't really have time to think about it, what a change this would mean," Miss Preston said.

"The toughest part mentally then and now has been dealing with the fact I have a piece of titanium permanently screwed into my head.

Four weeks later, giving time for the piece to fuse with bone and skin, Miss Preston made the trip back to Toowoomba to have her sound processor finally turned on.

"It was phenomenal," she said.

"The weirdest part was the vibrations swirling around the part of my head where there had previously been none. I didn't know I was missing so much, the smallest things, slight noises from the side, it was incredible."

Miss Preston said the surgery had been completely life-changing.

"I'm told I'm the first in Queensland to have the surgery," she said.

"I think it's going to be a wonderful enhancement to my life."

Topics:  hearing hearing aids hearing loss surgery warwick

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