Daniel Clarke


'From rescued to rescuer'

Working in a helicopter and rescuing people from road accidents, off stricken ships, or searching for missing persons is not a job for the faint hearted, let alone someone who is profoundly deaf. For South Australia’s Danny Clarke, that’s just part of his day-to-day job.

Born with normal hearing, when he was 8 years old Danny lost partial hearing in his right ear due to a fall. At 24 years of age, he suffered a double tragedy when he suddenly lost all of his hearing in his right ear overnight, followed by hearing loss in his left ear after being punched by a stranger in Freemantle, Western Australia.

For four months he was completely deaf, during which time he underwent a battery of specialists’ appointments and testing. Danny’s surgeon, Winthrop Professor Marcus Atlas from Ear Science Institute Australia, determined that Danny would be a suitable candidate for a cochlear implant. In 2006, Danny became Western Australia’s first simultaneous bilateral (both ears) Cochlear™ Nucleus® system recipient. The operation was a resounding success and two years after his operation, Danny was back working as an EMS/SAR Aircrewman (Emergency Medical Service/Search & Rescue).

“I transferred my care to the South Australian Cochlear Implant Centre (SACIC) in 2007 and moved permanently to South Australia in 2011 for work. The team at SACIC and my colleagues have been fantastic with helping me to operate effectively in my job,” says Danny. “My SACIC audiologists work closely with me to find solutions to optimise my hearing at work. For example, they fine-tuned my sound processors so I can connect them to the helicopter communication system in my flight helmet, allowing me to communicate effectively with the pilot and my other team members.

“Now I’ve upgraded to the latest Cochlear sound processor, I use Cochlear wireless accessories like the Mini Microphone to connect wirelessly to audio systems so I can watch TV and listen to music on my phone, which is great.”

Since returning to work, Danny has been working in Emergency Medical Service which requires him to assist the captain from the cockpit in navigation, communication, emergency procedures and mission coordination.

He also works part time as a Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET) instructor, training people who need to regularly travel in helicopters how to escape in case of emergency. This includes oil rig workers, medical personnel and law enforcement officers.

Much of the teaching is undertaken in a dive pool where a cage simulates a helicopter flipping over, potentially trapping its passengers. The students are trained to use an emergency breathing apparatus, how to orientate themselves to an exit and underwater survival and escape – not exactly a job for the timid! While submerged in water, Danny uses his Cochlear™ Nucleus® Aqua+ accessories which are soft, flexible, silicone sleeves that fit over his sound processors to make them waterproof.

“The types of rescues we undertake are challenging in their own ways,” explains Danny. “Things can go wrong, especially winching survivors off the side of a cliff, out of the ocean or a forest, or transporting patients away from road accidents. I certainly never get bored!”

In a helicopter, there is a lot of background noise, from the swooshing rotors and screaming engines, to the crackling radio and lots of different voices. It’s a challenging job, but Danny loves it and he knows that there’s no way he could have continued to follow his passion without his Cochlear devices and a supportive workplace.

Favourite sounds

Having experienced hearing loss, Danny has come to appreciate the full spectrum of sound.

Among his favourite sounds are the sounds of nature, such as birds singing, rain falling and leaves rustling in the breeze. But his all-time favourite sound is his daughter’s voice and laughter.

“My implants have allowed me to maintain strong relationships with my family and friends and to continue my rewarding job which affects people’s lives in a very positive way. I went from the rescued to the rescuer and I am forever grateful for that,” says Danny.

“I only had four months of silence, but during that period, I was scared, lonely and frustrated at not being able to hear. I am lucky to live at a time where this amazing technology exists and that allows you to reconnect to the world of sound.”