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May 25, 2003

'I lost my hearing overnight'

From: BBC, UK - May 25, 2003

Jane Elliott
BBC News Online health staff
When Nadien Lucas went to bed she could hear the sound of cars and a horse in the field behind her house.

But just hours later there was a deafening silence.

For two years she lived in a world without sound, until doctors fitted her with a cochlear implant and finally restored her hearing.

She had suffered from a viral infection and lost the hearing in one ear, but doctors reassured her that she would be able to hear with her remaining ear, which had also been affected.


But then overnight this last contact with the hearing world was shattered.

When she woke up she could not hear the toilet flushing or the tap water running.

"I went to bed able to hear and then there was nothing at all. It was all silence.

"My husband brought me a cup of tea and I kept saying to him 'Why are you whispering?'

"I was devastated. I had no idea that you could lose your hearing like this."

Nadien's doctor told her that her hearing was unlikely to come back.

"He said the best thing to do was to keep taking the antibiotics and see what happened. I did keep thinking my hearing would come back.

"It was strange living in a silent world. I was not prepared because I did not know I was going to go deaf. I could not lip-read or sign."


Because she could not hear, Nadien, 52, was unaware of the new risks she faced. Once she was nearly run over by a car, which she did not hear approaching.

She also had to give up playing the clarinet.

Nadien had to completely relearn her communication skills.

She learnt how to lip-read, and she and her family were also taught to sign the alphabet.

Then in April this year her left ear was fitted with a cochlear implant.

"They did the operation and then two months later on 1 April the implant was switched on.

"It was All Fools' Day, but I had the last laugh because I could hear.

"The first noise I heard was a soft beep. Then the audiologist went through eight different tones and then she tuned me in and said 'Can you hear me?'

"I had to laugh - she sounded like Donald Duck on helium, so it needed a bit of fine tuning."


But not only had Nadien's hearing been affected, she also found it difficult to speak again.

"At first I did not speak a lot because I forgot I could hear.

"I can also play my clarinet again now and I can tell if I do a sharp or a flat," she said.

But Nadien is aware that any problems with her implant can leave her without hearing again.

"I broke the receiver one Friday and was without hearing until the Monday. It was horrible."

She is determined to keep up her signing and lip-reading.

Nadien learnt the skills at the Link Centre for Deafened People in Sussex.

She is now setting up a Devon and Cornwall branch of Link to help people like her in the South West.

A Link spokesman explained that communication problems were often the hardest thing for people like Nadien to cope with.

"They can feel isolated and devastated. There is a total breakdown in communication because they cannot sign or lip-read."