Bilateral implants help Djaan to help others

01/11/18
Djaan is both captain and coach of the first-grade side for Northern United, based in Lismore, NSWDjaan is both captain and coach of the first-grade side for Northern United, based in Lismore, NSW

Djaan Jarrett is a keen footballer, having played rugby league since childhood. In his late teens, he played for the NSW Central Coast in the second league of the NRL (National Rugby League).  He has enjoyed a long career playing for first-grade teams across the NSW North Coast, where he was celebrated for his strong defence.

He was also born deaf. 

Today, in his thirties, Djaan hasn't hung up the boots just yet.  He is both captain and coach of the first-grade side for Northern United, based in Lismore, NSW.  When asked how his hearing loss impacts his sporting life, he says it simply doesn't. "I have quickly learned to adapt – and so have the teams I have played on.  More than anything, I think my deafness has given me additional skills, and helped me to be a better player," Djaan says.

 In 2014, the hearing aids Djaan was using started failing. "I didn’t have any sound at all. I knew it was a problem, I just wasn't sure what to do about it."

Outside his sporting life, Djaan is a busy man

Djaan is a father to four young childrenFather to four young children, with a career in community services and a passion for helping others, he knew he had to do something about his hearing if he was going to support those who need him, at home and work.  

That's when he found Cleon Kirby and the team at RIDBC Lismore. He received his first cochlear implant in 2015.  Djaan remembers fondly, the moment of his switch on and the access to sound it gave him.  " I was walking back to work after my appointment and I could hear an ambulance siren.  I thought it must be right behind me, but then I realised it was a few streets away – and I could hear it!"

Djaan received a second cochlear implant in early 2018. Bilateral implants enable recipients to experience stereo hearing, a more natural and comfortable state. Research shows using two sound processors instead of one increases speech understanding up to nine fold[1]. Recipients also report being able to hear better in noisy environments, feeling less tired at the end of the day and being more comfortable in social and work settings.

Djaan continues to see Cleon Kirby, his RIDBC audiologist, and Leonie, support staff, at RIDBC Lismore, both of whom have played a big part in his life, according to Djaan. "They are just fantastic, I actually think they saved my life - well at least my hearing! I couldn't have done it without them."

You can tell there is strong mutual respect between Djaan and his RIDBC team when Cleon says, "Djaan is fantastic, we are just so proud of him".  She says that for someone like Djaan, cochlear implants can be life-changing.  "Whether it's in his professional life, sporting world, or family life having access to sound changes things for the better. Before Djaan got his cochlear implants, he could pick up 8% of speech with his hearing aids, and twelve months after, he was at 98%. 

"We continue to work with Djaan to ensure he is getting the best access to sound and speech he can.  We also help with things like giving him access to wireless technology, such as using his iPhone to stream calls. These technologies allow him to hear better over distance and when there is background noise."

While Djaan credits his partner with being the backbone of the family and says she is 'just amazing', you can also see immediately that he is a proud Dad. He says his children understand his deafness and have always worked around it, but that now, thanks to his cochlear implants, he can engage with them on a whole new level.

And that's the thing when you talk to Djaan, it's obvious he is all about caring for others. Currently working for a local community service, he says that helping children and seeing them succeed in the face of challenges is the reason he does what he does, and now with his cochlear implants he can communicate better at work.

Djaan says that while his rugby league team have always been supportive of him, his cochlear implants have made it easier to communicate on the field too.  "I am so lucky with my team at Northern United.  Before my implants, they knew they needed to communicate differently or make it easy for me to lip-read.  But having the implants makes it much easier. I love coaching and playing rugby league – and now it's even better."

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[1] Laszig, R., Aschendorff, A., Stecker, M., Müller-Deile, J., Maune, S., Dillier, N., . . . Doering, W. (2004).  Benefits of bilateral electrical stimulation with the nucleus cochlear implant in adults: 6-month postoperative results. Otology & Neurotology : Official Publication of the American Otological Society, American Neurotology Society [and] European Academy of Otology and Neurotology, 25(6), 958-968. doi:10.1097/00129492-200411000-00016