Jo Milne’s life changed forever when the nurse switched on the ear implants for the first time 12 months ago.
The words “can you hear me?” shot through her like a firework, she later said, and likened it to “jumping into an ice-cold bath on a sunny day.”
Next week marks the anniversary of the day when the 40-year-old’s silence turned to sound following surgery to fit a bilateral cochlear implant, which saw an electronic device surgically implanted in both of her ears.
Video of that moment - and Jo’s emotional response to it - went round the world, but as she looks back on her life-changing year, which has been dominated by music, she revealed how her joy is tinged with sadness.
The charity worker’s sight is deteriorating and the battle to save her vision continues.
Jo, of Low Fell, Gateshead, has been deaf since she was two years old and was later diagnosed with the rare condition Usher Syndrome at 29 - something which continues to affect her eyes.
“Deaf people can feel very isolated, and one of the most heartbreaking things for a deaf person to go through is for them to go blind and to lose their eyes,” said Jo, an ambassador for Hearing Fund UK. “They use their eyes to communicate.
“My sight has deteriorated since I had the operation. No one will know what will happen but I have to try and have a positive attitude.
“There’s just nothing I can do, it’s out of my control. I think people all have their problems and we all have our battles.
“I’m still alive and I still have my health. I just have to make the most of each day.”
Jo’s first hearing moment last year was shared with nearly three million viewers on YouTube.
In a moving video clip, filmed by her mother Ann, she sobs tears of joy and holds her head in her hands as she hears the nurse recite the days of the week followed by months of the year.
She tries to trace the words in black ink on the page with her finger but her tears are soaking the paper.
“It was March 24, I will never forget that date,” said Jo. “I the operation a month before.
“My life has changed dramatically since then. I just feel like I’ve got a new lease of life.
“I’m very excited about the future now. I just feel like I’ve been given back a sense.”
The past 11 months have been an emotional rollercoaster for Jo. In between listening to music, her charity work and enjoying life, Jo has launched her first book - Breaking The Silence. The memoir captures the moving and inspiring story which covers her early years growing up deaf, discovering she had Usher Syndrome and then deciding to have surgery.
“It’s been very emotional and words can’t describe it,” said Jo. “It’s just been life-changing. The past 11 months have been a whirlwind. There have been a lot of tears and it’s been emotional.
“My friends are suggesting all types of music for me to listen to and people from all over the world have written pieces of music for me.
“I’m going to bed with songs in my head, something I can’t understand.”
As a child Jo could lip-read - but at 29 she started to lose her vision, due to the rare condition. She has now made it her mission to mentor others living with the plight and hopes her book raises its awareness.
She said: “Just seeing my face on the cover of the book is amazing. It has even been printed in Japanese, so everyone around the world will be reading it.
“I’m trying to teach people that we take our senses for granted. People don’t appreciate the fact they are able to listen.”
Since being able to hear, Jo feels she has gained a new lease of life and hopes her book and her work in the future can help others.
She said: “I’ve got a new life now. I couldn’t be happier. I’m just really glad I had the operation.
“It’s not for everyone but I was very lucky. I had this wonderful thing happen to me and now I want to give something back.”
Jo underwent a bilateral cochlear implant where an electronic device was surgically implanted in both of her ears before medics performed a ‘switch on’ a month after the operation to see if the implants were a success.
In 2013 Jo’s mentoring work, fundraising and positivity saw her shortlisted from 20,000 nominations for the Pride of Britain Awards.
Jo's fundraising plea
Jo Milne has issued a £45,000 fundraising plea to help other deaf children in the UK.
She has pledged to make a difference to the 45,000 deaf youngsters in the country by raising a minimum of her target. The cash will go to The Hearing Fund UK, for which Jo is UK ambassador.
She said: “It’s amazing how quickly this past year has gone. There have just been so many things happening. People are often discriminating but people are kind as well.
“I’m hoping my story raises awareness of Usher Syndrome. My mission is that everyone knows what it is. I want to give a bit of hope to the younger generation.
“I want them to know they can work, have a job and have a family and a relationship.”
A message from Jo on the charity’s website reads: “It gives me great pleasure to be an Ambassador for the Hearing Fund UK and we have lots of exciting plans so that we can continue to improve the lives of those touched by deafness. Together we can continue to encourage others to support us.”
To help Jo reach her fundraising target you can text MATD25£1 to 70070. You can donate more than £1 by replacing changing the amount.
For more information about the charity log on to www.hearingfund.org.uk .