Jack Ashley hears again

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The Independent Online
JACK ASHLEY is no longer deaf. Following surgery two months ago the Labour peer, who lost his hearing completely in 1968, is beginning once again to hear what he calls 'the sensation of sound'.

He has had a cochlear implant, an operation to place a device inside the inner ear which is capable of stimulating the hearing nerves electrically. It takes up to a year to adjust to it, but Lord Ashley, 70, is already feeling the benefits.

'Up to now I am absolutely delighted. I think it's absolutely wonderful,' he told the Independent on Sunday in an interview last week.

What he hears is not the sound that people with normal hearing hear, but a distorted version. 'The human voice sounds like a croaking Dalek with laryngitis,' he said, 'but I can hear things that make lip-reading much easier.'

The implant has brought moments of pure joy, such as hearing his four-year-old grandson speak - 'magical', he says.

He was disappointed with the results at first, but his ability to comprehend sounds has improved enormously. 'Now I am beginning to follow what some people say without lip-reading. That is tremendous.'

Cochlear implants are still rare in this country - 250 have been carried out since 1982 - but Lord Ashley is pressing for more public funds to be made available so that every deaf person who stands to benefit from one can have it. Government figures suggest that may be more than 5,000 people.

The operation was carried out by surgeon Graham Fraser at the UCH Middlesex Hospital, one of 10 centres in the country which perform the procedure.

Interview, page 2

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