A profoundly deaf grandfather of seven has spoken about the life-changing moment he had his cochlear implant turned on live on national television, saying he feels like he is ‘finally alive again.’

Isolation from loved ones 
Bryan Underwood (78) from Wisbech was one of the participants in Channel 4’s recent cutting-edge documentary Breaking the Silence Live which allowed viewers to witness the reactions of a group of deaf people having their hearing restored.  

Bryan, who was born deaf in one ear and suffered dramatic hearing loss in the other, told how he had been suffering from a sense of isolation from his loved ones and knew that the insertion of the powerful electronic hearing device, which stimulates the inner ear, was his only chance of being saved from complete deafness.

Turning hearing back on
He says: ‘Prior to switch on I was a little nervous. If it didn’t work I would be totally deaf as I was already deaf in my other ear. When the switch was flicked, I didn’t suddenly have super-hearing but after not being able to hear my family laughing and my wife’s voice for so long, I can’t explain the effect that even the smallest noise makes. I finally feel truly alive again.’

He credits his Specsavers audiologist, Cherri Wilson, for recognising that he would be a suitable candidate for a cochlear implant, which can ‘turn on’ sound for the profoundly or entirely deaf. Last week Bryan visited Cherri at the Wisbech store for the first time since his life-changing operation to personally thank her for referring him to his local GP, which in turn led to the television show. 

He addedd: ‘If it wasn’t for Cherri I wouldn’t even know what a cochlear implant was, let alone be given the opportunity to experience the change myself. If I can encourage one person to go and get a hearing test then I’ll be happy. If you are hard of hearing, please don’t assume just because old age is knocking there’s nothing that you can do. It could change your life.’

There are currently approximately 12,000 people in the UK using cochlear implants. Around 650 adults and 500 children receive one each year . It’s estimated only about 5 per cent of those eligible for an implant actually receives one. To be eligible you need to be severe to profoundly deaf and gaining little or no benefit from hearing aids.

Cherri commented: ‘Bryan has visited the store every year for the past decade. He is a shining example of the enormous impact a cochlear implant can have on someone. Hearing loss is a normal part of getting old but it doesn’t have to eradicate your hearing altogether. No matter what age, young or old, it’s better safe than sorry and the implant provides a life-changing option for those about to lose their hearing completely.’

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