UAE resident hears wife's voice in 50 years after she 'gifts' him hearing

It is a tale of love and dedication scripted in the heart of Abu Dhabi


Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Fri 19 Apr 2024, 4:48 PM

Last updated: Fri 19 Apr 2024, 11:22 PM

Picture this: A wife stands behind her deaf husband, who underwent a complex bilateral cochlear implantation surgery to treat his profound hearing loss. A doctor activates the electronic device to improve the husband’s hearing and signals the wife to say something.

“Banu”, the wife utters her pet name. Her husband, hearing a voice for the first time in 50 years, skips a heartbeat and fervently responds: “Banu”.

The 52-year-old Indian expat had heard a word after half a century of his life, and it was his wife’s sweet sound. Tears rolled down the eyes of everyone in the room at Abu Dhabi’s Burjeel Hospital, which witnessed such heartwarming and emotional scenes straight out of a Bollywood potboiler.

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It is a tale of love and dedication scripted in the heart of Abu Dhabi. It was a determined effort from Thaslibanu T.K., complemented by medical expertise, to gift Mohammed Hussain, her husband, the ability to hear after losing the sensation at the age of two years.

The couple’s life story began in 1995 when they got married. Later, they became parents of two children. Despite facing the hurdles of hearing impairment, Hussain worked as a tailor and laundry helper until the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Soon, Thaslibanu, a medical staff at a hospital, became the family’s sole breadwinner.

The turning point came when Thaslibanu learned about the possibility of cochlear implants — a small electronic device that helps restore hearing. She believed it could be a life-changing solution for Hussain.

“My sister-in-law had told me that he had met with a severe road accident when he was 17 years old. This incident always remained at the back of my mind, and I just wanted to keep him safe from such situations again,” Thaslibanu said.

Striving to protect her husband from accidents, she sought more information from Dr Seema Punnoose, a specialist in otolaryngology at Burjeel Hospital. Dr Seema described the challenges and limitations of cochlear implants at Hussain’s age. She referred the case to Dr Kimlin George, clinical audiologist, who examined and discovered the profound degrees of hearing loss in both ears, with zero per cent speech discrimination scores bilaterally. Further investigations revealed ossification or the formation of bony deposits in the cochlea of both ears, posing a significant challenge.

They consulted Dr Ahmad Al Amadi, consultant ENT and cochlear implant surgeon. According to Dr Al Amadi, there are many potential complications in the ossified cochlea as the surgeon is drilling very close to large vessels and vital structures.

Informed about the potential outcomes, the family was still keen to proceed.

Complex procedure

During the five-hour-long surgery, Dr Al Amadi expertly placed the implants into Hussain’s cochlea.

“Cochlear implant in the ossified cochlea is always challenging as the extent of drilling needed is not usually clear despite having preoperative imaging. Since we are working in an area less than a few millimetres across, we require fine instruments, and working through a very narrow window makes it technically challenging. However, during this surgery, we did not face any complications and inserted the electrodes on both sides successfully,” said Dr Al Amadi.

Hussain was discharged the next day, and the family left for India to attend their daughter’s wedding.

“We were very hopeful, and I was certain that Allah was going to grant this to us,” Thaslibanu recalled on her hopes for the activation of the implants.

One month after the surgery, the family gathered at Burjeel Hospital for Dr Kimlin to activate the cochlear implant.

“I wanted him to hear his wife’s voice for the first time. So, I asked her to stand behind him and say something,” said Dr Kimlin.

It was a priceless moment when Thaslibanu uttered her name, and Hussain repeated it. Overwhelmed with emotion, Thaslibanu burst into tears, and the entire medical team shared the joy of witnessing a man hear after 50 years of silence.

“The procedure has been truly successful. But progress is a hard and winding road. However, the couple is highly motivated and dedicated to the rehabilitation programme,” said Dr Seema.

Hussain, now able to hear from both sides, is undergoing auditory verbal therapy and further rounds of programming. He is diligently practising the auditory training exercises given by the doctors.

According to Thaslibanu, Hussain still feels overwhelmed when he hears his son call him ‘papa’. Despite limited expectations regarding her husband’s progress, Thaslibanu remains focused on one primary goal — to keep him safe from accidents.

“Any other improvements to his hearing and speech are a bonus,” she added.


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