Graeme Clark was a young child when he decided his life’s dream: to help people hear. His inspiration came from watching his father struggle with hearing loss. In celebration of his 85th birthday, we are sharing his inspiring vision and how it connects Cochlear Family across many decades.
Inspired, dedicated and passionately committed
While growing up, Graeme watched his father struggle with hearing loss. As a pharmacist in a small town outside of Sydney, Australia, customers would come into the shop for advice about health issues. Not being able to hear them caused frustration. This prompted Graeme to pursue a new way to treat hearing loss. It became his life’s work – inspired by his father, he wanted to help others.
“I saw my father’s desire for greater connection to others and was determined to make it possible,” says Professor Clark.
After becoming a doctor and spending years studying hearing, Graeme formed a team of bright and committed researchers. His passion was contagious, and the team worked continuously towards a shared goal, inspired by Graeme’s quest to help others like his father.
Not everyone was confident
Most doctors didn’t believe Professor Clark’s invention could be successful.
“At first, when I asked for patients, no-one came forward because they were being told ‘don’t go and see Clark, it won’t work’,” he says.
Then came Rod Saunders. Rod had lost his hearing after a car accident, leaving him unable to communicate with his wife, children and friends. After learning they were looking for volunteers to try Professor Clark’s new treatment, Rod jumped at the chance, “I would like to be able to hear something again.”
Thus, in 1978, Rod Saunders became the world’s first recipient of a multi-channel cochlear implant. Several months after surgery, Rod was able to hear. It took hard work and long hours but, once again, he could enjoy conversations with loved ones and reconnect with life.
The connection strengthens with each decade
Today, Cochlear™ has provided more than 600,000 implants to help people to hear. And they form a global community of millions, through their families, friends, colleagues, teachers and more. And, although decades have passed, this whole community is still linked by Graeme Clark’s childhood dream.
You may remember Beatriz, an 18-year-old cochlear implant recipient in Brazil, whose story we featured in a previous issue of Cochlear Family News. Implanted at age three, Beatriz says “Sounds fill the world with life, it fills it with joy, and that makes me very happy and makes me feel connected.” Beatriz’s passion and experience make her just one of the many people inspired to live a life full of potential.
Graeme Clark’s inspiring story has shaped who we are and what we stand for: it is the foundation of Cochlear’s mission. Four decades after his initial success, we celebrate the connection of hundreds of thousands of people across the world every single day.