Joanne Milne was born with Usher syndrome, a rare genetic condition that can affect vision, hearing, and balance. She was born profoundly deaf and is now beginning to lose her vision as well.
Now at 39, Joanne has received bilateral cochlear implants. A surgeon installed a receiver and stimulator underneath the skin into the bone. Electrodes coming off of the device stimulate the cochlea, which can then be processed as sound by the auditory nerve system. Externally, the device includes microphones to pick up sound, a transmitter, and a speech processor that gives priority to the perception of human speech. The external device is held in place with magnets.
While hearing aids are used to amplify sounds for those suffering from less severe hearing loss, a cochlear implant actually has to collect sounds and translate them into signals that can be interpreted by the brain. In 2012, it was estimated that 324,000 people around the world had received cochlear implants. Given the nature of the device, surgery, and post-surgical recovery, it is not surprising that most of the implants have occurred in developed countries.
This video was recorded by Joanne’s mom and shows her reaction when her device is switched on for the first time. She had lived her entire life in silence, but has an incredible reaction to the sound of hearing a nurse speak ordinary words for the first time. It is a truly amazing to witness the moment when someone’s life has been changed for the better for good.