Gateshead woman may hear for the first time after surgery

Born deaf and now registered blind, inspirational Joanne Milne is hours away from surgery which could allow her to hear music for the first time

Jo Milne
Jo Milne

Born deaf and now registered blind, inspirational Joanne Milne is hours away from surgery which could allow her to hear music for the first time.

Diagnosed as acutely deaf when she was two years old, her lack of hearing has been a way of life for Joanne.

As a child she could lip-read - but at 29 she started to lose her vision, due to the rare condition Usher Syndrome.

Now nearly 40, the selfless woman, who has made it her mission to mentor others living with the condition, is about to undergo a potentially life-changing procedure to allow her to hear.

Joanne, who lives in Low Fell, Gateshead, with guide dog Matt, said: “I was the only deaf person in my family and it was embraced with incredible normality.

“I went to a hearing impaired unit in Gateshead with five other deaf children and we were encouraged to mix with both deaf and hearing children and taught lip patterns.

“I was taught in a mainstream school and my parents have always tried their best not to have me feeling left out and I was a happy child.

“Growing up, my hearing sisters and school friends always supported and included me in the hearing world.

“I attended weekly appointments with a speech therapist who was baffled as I began to pick up a strong Geordie accent.

“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.

“I have always wondered what it must be like.

“Unfortunately when I became registered blind, things changed dramatically and for the first time in my life, being deaf became increasingly difficult.

“Deaf people treasure their eyes and it is heart-breaking for someone who is deaf to then be blind as well.”

Not letting her deafblindness hold her back, Joanne has been working with charity Sense to support others, from teenagers to pensioners, living with Usher Syndrone.

Joanne said: “It is so comforting to me that no one will ever be alone again, especially at the point of diagnosis.

“When you have lived life as a deaf person, to discover you’re going blind, your world really does come crashing down but now these people can be put in touch with a mentor who is confidently living with Usher and you can show them that you can still have a good quality of life.”

Tomorrow, she will undergo a bilateral cochlear implant where an electronic device will be surgically implanted in both of her ears before a ‘switch on’ a month after the operation to see if the implants are a success.

Nervous but optimistic about the future, Joanne added: “I have worn hearing aids since I was two so will feel like a part of me will be missing.

“If this procedure helps just a little and I can hear sounds so that I look in the right direction to lip-read then I’ll be happy.

“The doctors are very optimistic and hopefully this procedure could change my life.”

Last year Joanne’s mentoring work, fundraising and positivity saw her shortlisted from 20,000 nominations for the Pride of Britain Awards. Anyone with Usher in the Newcastle or North East area or who knows someone with the condition and would like support can contact Joanne at Jo.Milne@sense.org.uk

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