A man who can hear thanks to a cochlear implant has praised the NHS for saving him from living in a silent world.
Ian Milner, 55, failed his hearing test as part of an RAF application at the age of 17. In his 40s, tests showed significant bilateral hearing loss, but it took 10 years for Ian to take up the offer of a cochlear implant – when his daughter Kimberley left home.
The implant took place at Queen’s Medical Centre and the device was switched on a month later at Ropewalk House, a nationally recognised centre for auditory implantation.
“It has given me a new lease of life – the improvements have been mind-blowing! And I want to let everyone know how fantastic it is,” says Ian. “I’ve got to retrain my ears - at first everyone sounded like a robot!”
“It’s not like having a new hearing aid,” said Ellen Jeffs, from Nottingham Auditory Implant Programme. “The implant bypasses the damaged parts of the hearing system and uses electrical impulses to stimulate the hearing nerves directly. The brain has to learn to listen with this new signal, so at switch-on the sound can be very odd. Patients may experience a sensation rather than a sound to start with, or lots of beeping, or a robotic sound.”
A cochlear implant works differently for different people. For some, it improves their awareness of environmental sound and helps lip-reading or visual communication; for others it means they can use the telephone or follow a conversation in a quiet space.
“I’m still in rehabilitation,” says Ian. “I listen to audio books, music, and rehabilitation apps on my phone. But I feel great.”
He has no explanation for his hearing loss. “When I was a toddler I didn’t speak – my twin spoke for me and the GP said that’s normal for twins.
“I suffered bullying and abuse throughout my life. Deafness is one disability that people still think it is ok to take the mickey out of.”
He is a finance officer at Social Work England, and says: “The support they have given me has been amazing. I sit on the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) committee and I’ve learned so much from the other networks and other marginalised people.”
“I am so honoured and humbled to have this implant,” says Ian. “I owe everything to the audiologist who referred me for this. The NHS has saved me from living in a silent world.”