Hearing moment to be broadcast live on television

Charles Holden (91) of Ilkley, West Yorkshire, pictured with Professor Chris Raine
Charles Holden (91) of Ilkley, West Yorkshire, pictured with Professor Chris Raine

Cochlear implant patients from Bradford are to have the moment they can hear broadcast live on television. Catherine Scott reports.

The moment someone hears for the first time is going to be show live on teleivsion. Bradford Teaching Hospitals’ history-making audiology team and patients are set to star in a television documentary. The documentary, ‘Cochlear Live’ is being put together by Channel 4 and will be transmitted later in the year.

It will feature the ground-breaking work of Yorkshire Auditory Implant Service (YAIS), based at The Listening for Life Centre, Bradford Royal Infirmary. The programme, part of the channel’s Cutting Edge series, will follow a group of profoundly deaf people who are preparing to undergo surgery to have cochlear implants fitted. These miniature electronic devices replace the function of their damaged inner ear, and the implants will be switched on when the cameras are broadcasting live.

Head of Bradford’s YAIS, Jane Martin, said: “It is a great privilege to be present at a ‘switch on’ and often an emotional experience for patients, their families and team members.

“Responses at ‘switch on’ can be very different ranging from meaningful hearing in an instant to whistles and beeps - which do eventually change and become meaningful.

“Deafness is still a very under-estimated disability. Being unable to communicate with friends and family, or being left out of conversations can be very isolating and demoralising.”

She added: “One implication of our population becoming older is that hearing loss will affect more of us in the future, so the more we are aware of auditory devices such as cochlear implants, the better.”

Last year, the YAIS team made history when they restored the hearing of 91-year-old Charles Holden. Mr Holden, of Ilkley, became one of Europe’s oldest cochlear implant patients. The surgery was carried out by Consultant Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon, Professor Chris Raine, MBE. Hearing again for the first time in almost 30 years, Mr Holden told Prof Raine and his team: “I couldn’t believe it. I nearly cried. It was beautiful to hear my son’s voice again.”

Surgeons made history a second time just weeks later, when they performed the first cochlear implant in the UK on a pregnant patient.

Kimberley Ward, 27, underwent the surgery, 17 weeks into her pregnancy in order to hear her baby’s heartbeat for the first time.