Sunday, 29 August 2010

4.7 +1, Cochlear Implants, and that NEW NMC Poster

Whilst I am not a great advocate of self diagnosis (albeit I can see the value and drawbacks of pathologising everyday life), this week I finally admitted that I had possibly joined the ranks of the 4.7 million people in the UK who have tinnitus. Tinnitus is a condition where an individual experiences ringing, whistling, buzzing and humming noises in the ear. These noises can be incessant and constant.

Interestingly, tinnitus is not a disease or an illness, it is a symptom generated within a person's own auditory pathways. Although it is often assumed that tinnitus occurs as a result of disease of the ears, the precise cause of tinnitus is still not fully understood but is usually associated with some hearing deficits. There is a widely held misconception that tinnitus is confined to the elderly, but as I am only 55, I am not convinced this is the case.

However, in comparison tinnitus is a nothing more than an inconvenience to those people who have to live with some form of hearing loss, or who are completely deaf. Nearly two out of three Britons with hearing loss feel socially isolated because of their condition, according to a new survey carried out (bizarrely) by the high street options Specsavers (is there such a thing as a seeing ear?).

One in ten of the 700 people surveyed by Specsavers said they would not wear a hearing aid due to the stigma attached to it. As such trying to cope with the effects of beginning or becoming deaf can leave individuals feeling lonely, isolated and even depressed.

So it was good this week to hear [sic] OK SORRY! about the UK’s first operation to fit a single cochlear implant to radically improve the hearing of a women. She is aged 44 years old and  has been deaf from birth. The operation took place on the 27th August. A cochlear implant is an electronic device that can help both adults and children who have a severe to profound hearing loss. The device uses small electrical currents to directly stimulate the hearing nerve, which then sends signals to the brain where they are interpreted as sound. The device will make it possible for the woman, from the Isle of Wight, to hear sound – in BOTH ears.

That the UK’s first single cochlear operation took place is thanks to the hard work of the South of England Cochlear Implant Centre at the University of Southampton (yes that’s right Mr Willetts, this ground breaking, life enhancing development came from a University).

In terms of ground breaking, this week has also seen me working with one of my colleagues on a poster for this year’s NMC Conference. For those who don’t know, our School was awarded earned autonomy in this year’s NMC Review of the Quality of our pre-registration programmes. The Mental Health programme was awarded 4 goods and 1 outstanding. The outstanding citation was given in part, for the work the School has achieved, under the leadership of my colleague Naomi Sharples.

Naomi is our irrepressibly enthusiastic Director of Mental Health and Learning Disability Nursing. For over a decade she has worked at making nurse education and training accessible for people who are deaf. We remain the only School of Nursing and Midwifery in the UK that provides such access to nursing programmes. Naomi is currently studying for her Professional Doctorate focusing on Empowerment through Education. The poster we have been working on is brilliant (Naomi’s experience captured in words and pictures – under my award winning artistic direction). However, the poster is not to be unveiled until late September – but watch this space.