An inspirational woman who hit the headlines after her hearing was restored is spearheading a campaign to highlight the challenge faced by deaf and blind people.
Joanne Milne has become a media sensation since The Journal last week told the story of the moment she had cochlear implants switched on to restore her hearing.
Joanne, who yesterday appeared on ITV show This Morning to raise awareness of Usher Syndrome, the condition which caused her to lose her vision in her twenties, will today be attending her first live music event after being invited to The Sage Gateshead. She has also been approached to write a book about her life.
The 39-year-old from Gateshead was born profoundly deaf and started having speech therapy from the age of two, something to which she attributes her Geordie accent.
But in her twenties she was given the heartbreaking blow she had Usher Syndrome and was losing her vision. She made it her mission to raise awareness of the condition and support teenagers through to pensioners who were diagnosed with the syndrome.
Last month she underwent an operation to have a double cochlear implant fitted and this week saw the third and final activation session of her implants in Birmingham.
Speaking afterwards she said: “It is like I’m building up a library of sounds and everyday there is a new one. There are still lots of sounds I can’t identify and I’ve been advised to take someone out with me so I can ask ‘what is that I can hear?’ and once I know I can slot it into my sound library.
“The last week has been a whirlwind and I’m so grateful to friends, family and members of the public for their support. I’m so happy – they say life begins at 40 and it certainly is doing for me.
“The tests this week said my hearing has improved so much already and I’m now able to start making out accents. I feel a lot safer and can hear the environment around me. It’s getting better and better every day. This is going to be a life changer.”
With hearing music a revelation to Joanne, Sense is now asking people to suggest songs she should listen to, with the 10 most popular making it onto a playlist to hand to her.
She said: “This is an amazing campaign and I’m so thrilled that Sense can both raise awareness of deafblindness and Usher Syndrome in this way.
“I can’t wait to hear the final playlist. The best sound I’ve had so far is listening to music and I’m so happy that I’m now able to do such a simple thing.”