Feb 2017 Bournemouth Daily Echo
It is the permanent tribute to the team who literally saved her life. Tattooed on her arm, Barbara Day has the words ‘A tribute to the West Team. Hear always and forever’ alongside a drawing of the electronic device that turned her life around.
Barbara became so distressed by her profound deafness and tinnitus, the debilitating condition which causes sufferers to hear constant ringing, humming or buzzing sounds, that she planned her own suicide. However the 66-year-old had a Cochlear implant fitted and for the first time since she could remember she could hear again. Speaking ahead of World Hearing Day in March, she said: “It has saved my life. I couldn’t believe it. I always remember this. I took the rubbish out to the bin, opened the back door and there was this noise - it was the birds singing. It was just magical.
I stood there and cried and cried.”
When Barbara was at school, she was punched in one ear, damaging her ear drum. Years later she gradually became deaf and by 41, she was fitted with two hearing aids. The music lover, who used to play the guitar and organ, resorted to holding a balloon at parties to feel the vibration of the music. But when she developed tinnitus and could not block out the crashing noises with other sounds. Barbara became sleep-deprived and depressed, she couldn’t face the future. “I became increasingly withdrawn. I felt like I was in my own world. The noise from the tinnitus was horrendous and had become unbearable. It drove me nuts. It was a combination of the sound of a crashing Niagara Falls, a motor running and a loud whistle. I was told to listen to music to take away the noise, but I couldn’t hear music so how could that work? I’d have to go for a car ride to distract myself in the middle of the night. I couldn’t go on living like that. I just wanted to do away with myself. I thought about how I could take my own life. I was desperate.”
Worried, Barbara’s partner called the hospital and arranged another appointment. The couple found out about a cochlear implant. A scan revealed evidence of bilateral otosclerosis, a disease of the bones of the middle and inner ear, but a lifetime of taking antibiotics for the chest condition bronchiectasis may also have contributed to her hearing loss. After numerous tests, she discovered she was eligible for the procedure at Southampton General Hospital.
“I hear clocks ticking, birds singing and so many other things that I had forgotten about. I can go out with my friends, hold a conversation and hear music when I’m dancing. On the drive home after the switch on I could hear indicators and police sirens: all those noises I’d forgotten. I’ve got my confidence back. I can't stop talking now! I talk to everyone even in the supermarket.” Even though she still suffers from tinnitus, the sound she can hear with the implant means she can cope better by blocking out the noises by listening to music or talking. “It is hard to believe now that I was so low, I wanted to end it all. It seems so crazy now. Now I am just enjoying all these noises! I was so overwhelmed with what happened, I had to do something. I was so excited. I went and had the tattoo! My life is magical now and every time I put my processor on in the morning I think of the West Team and all the wonderful staff at University of Southampton who do all the assessments and the mappings and Tim Mitchell who did the op is my absolute hero. They have helped me so much. I am so grateful to them all.”