A pensioner has described the joy of being able to hear again after successfully becoming one the oldest cochlear implant patients in Europe.
Charles Holden, 91, has had difficulties with his hearing for almost 30 years before the implant was switched on in October.
Mr Holden, from Ilkley, West Yorkshire, struggled to communicate with his family and was unable to hear the people around him while he was out in town.
The Listening for Life team at Bradford Royal Infirmary carried out the operation on September 9 under local anaesthetic, meaning Mr Holden was awake throughout.
“I couldn’t believe it, I nearly cried,” said Mr Holden on the time he could hear again for the first time.
“I didn’t know what to aspect from the operation but the results are simply fantastic. It was beautiful to hear my son’s voice again.
“I had to have the operation under local anaesthetic as it is better for me to have that as going under general is more of a risk. The only problem is you know that the operation involves them drilling your head and it is all you can think about. I was laid there on my side but I felt like getting up but I knew I just had to stay still and soldier on.
“I was not afraid of the operation. When you get to my age, you are afraid of nothing. It is a long operation but I was in no pain whatsoever and I find it a miracle that I can hear again.”
Mr Holden, who lost his wife Jean in 1995, is also the oldest cochlear implant patient in Yorkshire and believes it was his many years working in the cotton and weaving mills which led to his hearing problems.
He said: “I wanted to be engineer but when you are poor and have a stepmother, you get sent to work in the mills. I first started in the cotton mills but it was the weaving mills that damaged my ears. All you did was hammer all day long so it was bound to cause problems.”
A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that surgically implanted and can provide someone who is deaf or severely hard of hearing with a sense of sound.
Although they cannot restore normal hearing, they provide a representation of sounds that allows the patient to understand speech again.
The operation, which lasts around an hour, on Mr Holden was carried out by ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgeon David Strachan and consultant ear surgeon Professor Chris Raine.
Professor Raine said: “We do a lot of cochlear implants on children but adults, especially the elderly, do not realize the benefits it can bring to your quality of life.
“We have seen a number of studies which show that elderly people with hearing problems often become isolated as a result. It has also been proven that because they are not communicating with anyone, it is more likely that this may contribute to developing dementia.
“The problem we have is that not many people think that the implant is an option, which is why we have been working on ways to get more and more people referred, as we can only help if they are referred to us.”
As the procedure takes place under anaesthetic, flash cards are used to communicate with the patient and ensure they are comfortable.
Mr Strachan added: “There is a certain amount of risk when using general anaesthetic on elderly patients but we have successfully performed a number of implants under local anaesthetic over the last couple of years. This means more and more elderly people can come forward and have the implant if it will benefit them for a number of years.
“There a lot of elderly people these day, like Mr Holden, who are very healthy and independent, allowing for the procedure to be possible. However, it still requires a lot of work in order for the implant to successfully work for the patient. They come in for testing and support but it is also important for the family to help them to listen and learn.”
Mr Holden, who has three sons and four grandchildren, visited Bradford Royal Infirmary today to undergo his first hearing check/test and to have a speech therapy session.
He said: “I think I might have to learn how to use a phone again as I haven’t had one in over 20 years. I couldn’t use one so there was no point in having it.
“I can finally have a conversation with people who try to talk to me when I’m on the bus after years of telling them, I can’t hear a word your saying.”