Now Hear This!

by Michael Ford last modified 22 Feb, 2017 09:37 AM

After 12 years of marriage, our Chaplain with Deaf and Hard of Hearing People and his wife have heard each other’s voices for the first time.

Neil and Helen Robinson, who currently live near Salisbury, were both born deaf due to their mothers contracting rubella during pregnancy. Up to now, they have mainly communicated using sign language and lip reading.

They had a number of failed attempts at using hearing aids but, in January, they became the first-ever couple to receive cochlear implants at the University of Southampton Audiology Implant Service (USAIS).

The emotional moment the devices were switched on has been captured on video.

Watch the BBC video here 

Cochlear implants require surgery to place a medical device inside the wearer’s head. Once installed, an external receiver captures sounds and sends electrical signals directly into the ear, stimulating the hearing nerve. The brain then interprets these signals as sound.

Neil says, “It sounds a bit tinny, but I’ll get used to it. It was amazing to hear Helen’s voice for the first time, but I’m already getting jokes about whether I can switch it off again!

“It will take a while to get used to it – some fine tuning is still needed. But it will certainly be an added bonus in my work with hearing congregations. And I love hearing birdsong in the mornings."

Dr Mary Grasmeder, a clinical scientist at USAIS, says: “People who have been deaf for some time don’t have the same expectation of what sound will be like compared with someone who has just lost their hearing.

“Because their auditory system is not so well developed it will be more difficult for them to process the information and to understand it.”

USAIS has fitted around 1,000 implants since opening in 1990 but this marks the first time they have been supplied to a couple.

Neil adds, “To be honest, many deaf people regard themselves as being members of a distinct language group, rather than being disabled. I’ll continue to offer advice to clergy on including deaf people in the full life of their parishes.”

Disability and Churches Open for All 

About cochlear implants 

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