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Running for Team GB with a cochlear implant

Published: 15 December 2012

Audiology students got an insight into the life of an athlete with a cochlear implant, who is preparing to take part in the international Deaflympics in Bulgaria this summer, in a talk at the University of Southampton.

PhD student Hannah Semeraro and Lecturer Rachel van Besouw invited Melanie Jewett to speak about her experiences of long distance running with a hearing impairment and how her operation at the University's South of England Cochlear Implant Centre transformed her life.

Mel started losing her hearing at the age of eleven but by 2008 she had lost almost all of her hearing. "I was really starting to lose my confidence in so many different parts of my life and found it easier to switch off sometimes as it was impossible to keep up with conversations or know what people were talking about," she said.

Mr Will Hellier performed her cochlear implant surgery at Southampton General Hospital two years later. Mel‘s hearing gradually but dramatically improved; one year after the operation her hearing was graded at 81 per cent on speech tests at the implant centre, it then it reached 95 per cent after two years. She has spoken about her experiences on BBC local radio and in newspapers and magazines.

A lifelong runner, she tackled her first marathon in 2003 and was a regular competitor at the London Marathon. "As my hearing was deteriorating, the race was getting quieter and quieter each year until it got to the point where I was ‘feeling' the crowds rather than hearing them," she explained. "My first London Marathon after my switch on was incredible - the noise was something I had never experienced there before and it was a very emotional race.....I definitely had watery eyes a few times on the way round at that one."

"It was very interesting to hear of her experiences both as an athlete and a cochlear implant patient. We had not realised how important hearing is to running and were pleased her operation was so successful," said Hannah.

Mel brought an Olympic torch with her to the University and several students were photographed with the iconic symbol of London 2012. She has to raise £3,500 to take part in the Team GB squad at Deaflympics 2013.

Cochlear implants for people with severe to profound deafness

Cochlear implants have been available in the UK for over 20 years and are the only successful treatment available for people with severe to profound deafness. They can transform lives by restoring an individual’s ability to hear and understand speech or help a deaf person hear for the first time. Pioneering research into the devices at the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) has improved their performance and led to changes in health policy by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

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