Health: Ear implant may signal end to the world of silence of bus-driver deafened by IRA blast

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The Independent Online
A London bus-driver deafened by an IRA bomb blast has had surgery in a final attempt to recover his hearing. Bob Newitt, 51, was made profoundly deaf when a bomb blast ripped through the bus he was driving along the Aldwych in February last year.

Yesterday, Chris Raine, consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon, said Mr Newitt was doing well after receiving a cochlear implant at Bradford Royal Infirmary. It will not be known how successful the operation has been for at least a month, when external parts are fitted.

Mr Newitt, who now lives in Leeds, said he was feeling a bit sore but had been assured all went well during the operation on his left ear. "I feel good, a bit sore and dizzy," he scribbled on a piece of paper from his hospital bed in answer to written questions. "It's the best present I could have for Christmas." For Mr Newitt, who has learnt to lip-read, the operation is the final effort by doctors and scientists to end his world of silence.

Mr Raine said: "Most adults who have a cochlear implant have lost their hearing as a result of an infection, such as meningitis or a congenital defect ... In our experience it is extremely rare ... to perform such an operation on a patient who has become deaf in such an unusual way."

A cochlear implant, a small electronic device, is placed under the skin behind the ear and relays sounds as electronic impulses through a wire into the cochlea, stimulating the hearing nerves.

Mr Raine added: "Tests made in the operating theatre eased our worst fears about nerve damage. But, as with all cochlear-implant patients, we are entering a journey into the unknown when predicting how successful it may be. Mr Newitt has undergone ... tests and scans to assess his suitability and the signs are promising."

Mr Newitt's bus was destroyed when a bomb being carried by Edward O'Brien exploded prematurely, killing the IRA man.

Mr Newitt received injuries to his back and shock waves damaged his chest cavity and lungs but no bones were broken. Although Mr Newitt recovered well from these injuries, his hearing was damaged and doctors later found two hairline cracks in his skull. A cochlear implant cannot restore normal hearing but a range of sounds can be heard and recognised.