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Implants help 91-year-old live dream -

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Broadcast: 07/09/2011

Reporter: Tracy Bowden

At 91, David Archer is finally pursuing his love of flying thanks to a cochlear implant.


CHRIS UHLMANN, PRESENTER: As the population ages, more Australians are losing their hearing, but
thanks to an Australian modern marvel, the cochlear implant, it's a loss that can often be
recovered at almost any age. Just ask David Archer. Tracy Bowden reports.

TRACY BOWDEN, REPORTER: David Archer is a busy man. Every weekday from nine to five, this is where
you'll find him: in the workshop at his retirement village on the outskirts of Sydney. At 91, he
still has a dream.

DAVID ARCHER: You have to do something with your life. It has to be worthwhile living. You know
what I mean? If it's not productive, what's the use of being here?

TRACY BOWDEN: After his wife died six years ago David Archer needed a project, and this is it. He
calls it the Archer Diamond, built from scratch.

DAVID ARCHER: It came to me just as a hand-drawn plan and just a whole lot of metal. That was it.

TRACY BOWDEN: Today, as the plane nears completion, four generations of the family are here to take
a look.

David Archer's love of flying goes back a long way. As a young man, he joined the Airforce, hoping
to be a pilot.

DAVID ARCHER: When I came to the test for hearing, they found this ear was quite good, but there
was a slight drop in it. I was kicked out.

TRACY BOWDEN: Instead, David Archer joined the ground staff and learnt all about the mechanics of
planes. Later in life, as a civilian, he did get a pilot's licence, but as his hearing worsened, he
had to face facts.

DAVID ARCHER: Gradually I realised that I couldn't hear the other aircraft properly. Couldn't hear
the - I was guessing at what they were saying. So I stopped flying.

TRACY BOWDEN: In recent years, the family noticed this gregarious father, grandfather and great
grandfather changing.

LAURIE ARCHER, SON: His hearing had deteriorated to the stage where it was so difficult for him, he
was actually giving up keeping in social contact with people.

JAMES ARCHER, GRANDSON: The biggest thing was at family dinners. For me, that's where we would see
him the most. And I guess he'd be very quiet and feel like he's off to the side.

TRACY BOWDEN: But then David Archer discovered he was a candidate for cochlear implants.

MONICA BRAY, AUDIOLOGIST, SYDNEY COCHLEAR IMPLANT CENTRE: After the implant it's as if a switch had
been flicked. He was back to who he was supposed to be: raring to go, nothing will stop him. And he
came back to life and we see this very often.

TRACY BOWDEN: David Archer's audiologist Monica Bray says people wrongly assume that cochlear
implants are only for younger people.

MONICA BRAY: The average age is 75 and people in their 90s are coming for assessments and having
implants, so age is absolutely not something that precludes anybody from having a cochlear implant

TRACY BOWDEN: Now he can hear air traffic control loud and clear.

JAMES ARCHER: It's great to be able to carry on conversations with him and see him confident in
what he's doing. Even seeing him being able to interact with the kids in a way that he couldn't do

TRACY BOWDEN: David Archer reckons his plane will be finished by Christmas. His ultimate dream is
to fly medical supplies to people in the bush, but first he just wants to once again take to the

David, have you thought about what it's gonna be like that day when you're on the tarmac getting
ready to go on the first flight?

DAVID ARCHER: I'll be that excited. (Laughs). You can just imagine, flying my own aircraft, taking
it off, testing it.

TRACY BOWDEN: Some people might think a 91-year-old man, to build a plane and then fly it himself
is crazy.

DAVID ARCHER: Well, they might be right too. (Laughs).

CHRIS UHLMANN: Tracy Bowden reporting.