Last year a letter addressed simply to “the lady in Newcastle that got to hear after 40 years” landed on Jo Milne's doormat.
No further information was supplied but postal workers knew exactly who the intended recipient was, such was the impact of one three-minute video which went viral after it was posted to YouTube last March.
The footage shows Jo Milne hearing for the first time aged 39 as her cochlear implants are switched on by doctors following a life-changing operation at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
“I certainly did not expect millions of people to take an interest... but watching the video myself - it's pretty emotional,” Ms Milne tells us. “The rest of world experienced those first moments with me,” she says, but the months that followed continued to be “overwhelming beyond belief ”.
“There are still sounds today, over a year later, that take my breath away or make me jump,” adds Ms Milne, of Gateshead.
But it has been a bittersweet year for Ms Milne, who has Usher Syndrome, a rare genetic condition that affects both hearing and sight. While she is overjoyed at being able to hear at last, her sight is rapidly deteriorating. “I don't know if I'll be able to see next year so it's like a time bomb,” she says. “I want to make as many memories as possible - especially visual ones.”
Ms Milne has capitalised on her internet fame by working tirelessly to raise awareness of Usher Syndrome and deafblindness, particularly in schools.
“BSL [British Sign Language] and deaf awareness should be compulsory requirements in our curriculum,” she insists. “Children have brains like sponges and will take that awareness with them through their whole lives.”
Ms Milne is determined to raise £45,000 for the UK's 45,000 deaf children to fund a speech therapy programme via her online campaign £1perdeafchild. Earlier this month she completed a gruelling climb to the summit of Ben Nevis as part of her fundraising efforts.
This year also saw the publication of her autobiography Breaking The Silence - but the campaigner and writer has managed to cram in some downtime too. After she revealed that it was her “dream” to attend Glastonbury, the organisers of the music festival got in touch and offered her a free ticket to the event, which is taking place in Somerset next week. She says she can't wait to experience her “first live rock concert”. “I've seen footage of people on their feet, dancing, totally mesmerised by performances. It truly will be magical to hear and see Glastonbury while I can.”
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