A SMALL hearing device has been a life changer for Rhonda Greene.
The St Clair resident, 55, is one of 21 Australians who have been testing the new cochlear implant Nucleus 6 System since June.
A world first, it is powered by a microchip which enables the device to determine automatically the type of sound environment the user is in, using a scan program to self-adjust.
The Nucleus 6 is now available Australia-wide.
Ms Greene's hearing has now improved 90 per cent.
"It's made a big difference," she said. "It has given me more confidence as I can now do what everyone else does.
"I can also now hear on the telephone, which is fantastic."
She had only 5 per cent hearing from age 16 until her first implant in 1997.
"Hearing aids weren't strong enough so I was socially isolated," she said. 'I learnt to lip read so had to have conversations face to face; I couldn't hear the telephone and I was unable to work."
Since the first implant, Ms Greene has graduated as an occupational therapist and is now a social educator at Mount Druitt Hospital.
She had to change the Nuclear 5 programming to cope with different environments.
"I work in different hospital environments: having to constantly adjust it was a problem," she said.
"I can now hear my two grandchildren and interact with family and clients with a disability."