Deaf Woman Given Cochlear Implant to Hear for First Time [Video]


A deaf woman in the United Kingdom, Joanne Milne, was given cochlear implant technology that enabled her to hear for the first time in her life. Milne, 39, was born with a rare condition known as Usher Syndrome, which has left her deaf since birth and also claimed her sight in her mid-twenties. Milne’s mother captured the life-changing moment as a hearing specialist at the Midlands Implant Center at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham called off the days of the week to her and she heard a human voice for the first time in her life. The video has since gone viral–with more than 1 million views on YouTube since it was published on Thursday.

Milne, who resides in Gateshead, which is a large urban town that lies on the southern bank of the River Tyne and is located in Tyne and Wear, England, described the switch-on procedure as the most emotional and overwhelming experience of her life and she remains in disbelief of the new world that has been opened to her. She reported that her first day with the implants switched on was eye-opening, as everybody sounded robotic and she had to learn to recognize what different sounds were as she built a sound library in her brain. Milne was fitted with the implants last month and faced an extended wait before the device could be activated and tested.

The cochlear implant technology that allowed a deaf woman to hear for the first time in her life is an electronic device that requires surgical implantation and can improve hearing by stimulating the auditory nerve. The implant cannot in fact restore hearing to normal, but it does provide the sensation or imitation of sounds for those individuals who suffer from severe hearing impairments. Additionally, the implant device is surgically placed under the skin behind the ear, while externally the device is composed of a microphone, speech processor, and transmitter. Moreover, it should be noted that the cochlear implant is not suitable for all deaf people, and those considering the surgery have to undertake extensive preparatory testing protocols including in-depth hearing, speech and language, educational, and psychological assessments.

Usher syndrome is an uncommon genetic disorder that is associated with a mutation in any one of 10 genes resulting in a combination of hearing loss and visual impairment. It is usually presents with deafness resulting from an impairment of the auditory nerves to transmit sensory input to the brain and is often accompanied by progressive vision loss. Researchers have identified three known types of Usher syndrome and debated the existence of a fourth type.

Joanne Milne, the deaf woman in the United Kingdom who was given cochlear implant technology that enabled her to hear for the first time in her life, said she was delighted by the results of the life-altering procedure. She thanked the team at the Midlands Implant Center at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham for the procedure, which was carried out last month. The Birmingham hospital is one of only 20 medical centers in the United Kingdom which can currently carry out cochlear implant procedures. These are surgically implanted electronic devices that transmit a sense of sound to an individual who has severe hearing impairments. It is not at the same level as natural hearing but they can hear environmental sounds and speech. Milner has returned home and to her work as a mentor at the charity Sense, where she helps people undergoing hearing transition and those who are also losing their sight, with a new perspective and sense of purpose. She knows there will be a period of adjustment and areas in which she will need to transition. The biggest adjustment for the deaf woman whose life has been transformed by a cochlear implant might be getting used to the sound of her own voice.

By Leigh Haugh


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