Jo Milne gives ‘The Gift of Hearing’ to deaf children in new BBC documentary
SHE became an internet sensation when the moment she heard for the first time was captured on film, now Jo Milne is helping to change the lives of hundreds of deaf children.
To say Jo’s world has been transformed since she was fitted with cochlear implants is putting it mildly. She has been able to hear the voice of her mum who supported her through dark days, she’s heard the sound of rain on her bedroom window and is catching-up on a lifetime of music from the hymns she missed in assembly to iconic songs by The Smiths and Elbow.
A shaky video of Jo’s reaction after her hearing implants were switched on was uploaded to YouTube and has been watched by almost nine million people – it reunited her with an old school friend from Bangladesh. Together, the two women have embark on a mission to help deaf children from Bangladesh, many of whom can never hope to have access to hearing aids.
Watch the moment Jo Milne hears for the first time and read more about her inspirational story…
The Gift of Hearing, which is being broadcast on BBC One in the North-East this Friday, July 29, at 7.30pm, shares the uplifting story of children hearing for the first time and reveals that the project was supported by some unlikely backers in the shape of 70s pop icons The Osmonds. It will be repeated on Thursday, August 4, at 11.05pm on BBC Two.
In Dahka, Jo from Gateshead worked with the charities The Hearing Fund UK and the Starkey Foundation to provide hearing aids. For Jo, seeing first hand hundreds of children being given the chance to hear for the first time was an incredibly emotional but rewarding experience.
Jo, 42, had already lived a lifetime surrounded by silence, profoundly deaf from birth, when she began to lose her sight. Just before turning 30, she was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome, a rare genetic and progressive condition that will one day rob her of her sight altogether.
Although at her lowest ebb and suffering from depression, Jo had never let her disability or the childhood bullying she suffered as a result affect the way she embraces life. In 2014 she took the decision to undergo major surgery so as she lost once sense she gained another, and every moment since has been a journey of discovery.
After the overwhelming public response to the YouTube video, Jo has had classical concert tickets sent to her in the post by complete strangers and had seven songs written especially for her. Her memoir Breaking the Silence, published by Coronet, details her extraordinary story and since it was released earlier this year, she was invited to Glastonbury and sponsored on a seven wonders of the world trip.
In Breaking the Silence, she says:” When I think back to those wasted years I spent under a black cloud of depression, it seems like another me, or at least another lifetime. I can’t imagine the Jo that cried in the bath, or was so scared of taking out a white stick. That woman who stood numb with shock outside the hospital, clutching a letter saying she was registered blind, doesn’t feel like me now, as I’m off out to meet the rest of my friends. But she is also what brought me to this point; she is also the reason I was brave enough to have the operation.
“I only wish I’d had it sooner…”
The Gift of Hearing documentary is being broadcast at 7.30pm on Friday, July 29, on BBC One narrated by Lauren Laverne.
Breaking the Silence, Jo Milne’s inspirational memoir is published by Coronet
Jo Milne is an author, ambassador for deaf children, Speaker on deafblind and Usher Syndrome and a columnist at Standard Issue magazine working towards an inclusive world.
Follow Jo Milne on Twitter @jomilne10