Lifestyle & Belief

Watch the incredible moment this deaf woman hears for the first time


British woman Joanne Milne, 39, experiences sound for the first time in her life thanks to cochlear implants.


Tremayne Crossley/YouTube

To most of us, it wouldn't sound like much. 

Slowly and clearly, a nurse reads the days of the week. "Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday..." 

It's hardly poetry. To Joanne Milne, though, the sound couldn't have been sweeter. 

The 39-year-old from Gateshead, in the northeast of England, had never heard before. She was born with a rare genetic condition, Usher Syndrome, that causes the loss of hearing and vision. Deaf from birth, she learned to speak and to lip read. Then, in her 20s, she lost more and more of her sight. 

At the age of 39, by then registered blind, she underwent surgery to have cochlear implants. The tiny electronic devices, fitted behind each of her ears, are designed to pick up sounds from the surrounding environment, filter it, convert it into electrical impulses and transfer it to the hearing nerve, which then takes it to her brain. If it all works, the result isn't exactly sound, but a sensation much like it.

Milne had the procedure in February, but she had to wait until this week to find out whether it was a success. Accompanied by her mother — who filmed the video above — she went to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham to have the implants switched on. 

The result left everyone in tears

Milne called it "the most emotional and overwhelming experience of my life." 

"Hearing things for the first time is so emotional, from the ping of a light switch to running water," she told local newspaper The Journal. "I can't stop crying and I can already foresee how it's going to be life-changing."

After a life without hearing, she's got a lot to catch up on — not least 39 years of music. One of her friends, Tremayne Crossley, compiled a playlist made up of one song from each year of her life to help get her started. It was featured on BBC radio this week. 

Milne is already a "totally mint" dancer, Crossley told the 6 Music station, having used vibrations coming through the floor to pick up the beat. Now she'll finally be able to hear what she's grooving to. Yay, science.