Moment a deaf woman could hear for first time
Published 27/03/2014 | 20:18
This is the magical moment a woman who has been deaf since birth was able to hear for the very first time after having electronic implants in her ears switched on.
Joanne Milne, 40, burst into tears when the sound of a nurse reciting the days of the week introduced her to a sensory world denied to her throughout her life.
She was fitted with cochlear implants in both ears last month, and on Monday her mother filmed the moment they were turned on by remote control.
Miss Milne, from Gateshead, said: “Hearing things for the first time is so, so emotional, from the ping of a light switch to running water. I can’t stop crying.
“Over the last 48 hours hearing someone laughing behind me, the birds twittering and just being with friends - they didn't have to tap my arm or leg to get my attention, which is a massive leap for a deaf person.”
Although she is still getting used to her implants – even the rustle of a bag of crisps has “made her jump” – she hopes she will soon be able to use a telephone and the thing she has looked forward to more than anything else: the sound of music.
"Being deaf was just who I was and I didn't really have any negative thoughts about my deafness, just the one thing of missing out on music,” she said. “I have always wondered what it must be like.”
She has been to concerts with friends and enjoyed the atmosphere, even though she could only pick up vibrations with the use of traditional hearing aids; now her friends have chosen their favourite songs from each year of her life, ranging from Paul McCartney to Elbow, to give her a crash course on what she has missed.
Miss Milne, who works for the charity Sense, underwent surgery at the Midlands Implant Centre at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. Cochlear implants, which were first developed in the 1960s and have been given to more than 300,000 people since then, stimulate auditory nerves to make patients artificially hear noises.
Miss Milne’s implant has been doubly important to her, as the rare Usher Syndrome that affects her hearing caused her to start losing her vision in her early 20s. She now has severe tunnel vision and is registered blind.
She said: “The switch-on was the most emotional and overwhelming experience of my life and I'm still in shock now. The hearing world sounds so loud and alien. The first day everybody sounded robotic and I have to learn to recognise what these sounds are as I build a sound library in my brain.
“I can already foresee how it's going to be life changing and the implants will get better and better over time. I'm so, so happy.
“I'm hearing words without lip-reading already; new sounds like the Tannoy at a train station, my knife clinking my plate as I eat - even the rustle of a packet of crisps made me jump!
“I'm attempting to use the telephone but it's one step at a time as it's all so daunting. It's the small things that are huge life changing experiences to me right now and this will probably last a few months.
“Wearing hearing aids I could still hear some sounds which helped me be aware of the environment I was in. If I walked into a room where a television was on I would hear the noise but not what was being said.
"I recognise the vibrations but have never, ever heard the words to music."
Her best friend Jo Knight said: “It will open her up to more experiences. We have been away together and been to see bands. Even though she couldn't hear them, she really enjoyed the atmosphere and vibe.
“Now when we go on days out she will be able to hear the birds singing and her dog, Matt, barking.”