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Determined Northfleet pensioner’s battle to get hearing back

An 83-year-old woman who had gone deaf has been given the gift of hearing after successfully lobbying doctors for life-changing surgery.

When Audrie Jackson came into the Messenger office to tell us of her “traumatic year”, none of us were too sure what to expect.

But what began as a tale of frustration at being told she was “too old” for the operation that could allow her to hear again became a story of incredible fighting spirit.

Audrie Jackson can hear again - six years after going deaf - thanks to an implant she received at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital
Audrie Jackson can hear again - six years after going deaf - thanks to an implant she received at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital

Mrs Jackson, of Beaumont Drive, Northfleet, was positively beaming as she told us of how her life had been turned around.

“I started going deaf in 1991 and eventually it went completely, but no one seemed to want to know,” she said.

“Actually I didn’t speak for six or seven years because I was so deaf I couldn’t even hear my own voice.

“I used to be in the choir at St Botolph’s Church but I had to give it up as well.

“But my mother lived until 96 and I thought, why should I go another 15 years or so in a world of silence?”

In order to have a chance of regaining her hearing, Mrs Jackson required a cochlear implant, but one doctor said her “age was against her”.

Nevertheless, she was insistent that she should give it a shot and her persistence paid off, as she eventually found people willing to listen at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals.

She had an implant fitted on September 22 at Guy’s and on October 12 it was switched on at St Thomas’, bringing back her hearing in the process.

“You should have seen my face when they turned it on,” she recalled.

“I cannot thank all of those staff enough, they are all wonderful. The doctors, the surgeons, the nurses, even the man who brought me tea.

“They have given me my life back and I can’t stop talking to people.

“I can hear the toilet flush, I can hear the washing machine, I can hear the microwave, this morning I could hear the traffic.”

Audrie Jackson fought against advice that she was too old for an operation - and now has a chochlear implant.
Audrie Jackson fought against advice that she was too old for an operation - and now has a chochlear implant.

Mrs Jackson is still getting used to being able to hear again and so her ability to lip-read remains useful but her hearing is improving and seeing her excited about being able to hear her microwave and washing machine certainly puts things into perspective.

The surgeon who performed Audrie Jackson’s cochlear implant says the devices should be available to everyone who needs one.

Harry Powell , of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals, told how life-changing the technology can be.

A cochlear implant uses electrodes to stimulate the cochlea’s hearing nerve fibres, which relay the sound signals to the brain to produce hearing sensations.

The implant, which requires three hours’ surgery, involves making an incision behind the ear to gain access to the cochlea where a device converts the digitally-coded sound into electrical signals to stimulate the nerves.

Mr Powell said: “It’s about giving people who are really struggling to hear the opportunity.
“For a lot of patients who have lost their hearing they can adapt through lip reading.

“Audrie was someone who has had hearing loss for some time and consequently it makes more people isolated.

“Now they are relatively common for adults and children who have severe or profound hearing loss.”

Cochlear implants were developed in 1980 and have become more accessible over the past 15 to 20 years.

About 50 adults and a similar number of children were fitted with the device at the hospital each year.

Audiology specialists, speech and language therapists and surgeons decide which patients would benefit from an implant, which costs about £14,000, at monthly meetings.

Mr Powell said he was delighted Audrie was happy. He said: “It’s lovely to get positive feedback, it’s a great pleasure.”

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