103-year-old becomes world's oldest person to receive cochlear implant at Middlesbrough hospital

Leslie hopes to tackle his blindness next. Credit: South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

A pensioner has become the world’s oldest person to receive a cochlear implant at 103-years-old.

On his 103rd birthday, Leslie Hodgson from Penrith walked into The James Cook University Hospital Middlesbrough and asked for help to regain his hearing for the first time in ten years.

It was a far cry from the retired architect’s first ear operation in 1925, which was done with a hammer and chisel and made his recent surgery, 97-years-later, even more complicated.

Leslie Hodgson with two of the record breaking surgical team, Mr Noweed Ahmad and Tamzin Jackson

Leslie also needed a subtotal petrosectomy, to clear out the lining of his mastoid, (part of the skull located just behind the ear).

Mr Noweed Ahmad, auditory implant surgeon at the trust said: “Leslie walked into my clinic, told me it was his 103rd birthday and that (after researching it) he wanted a cochlear implant to restore his hearing.

“Discussing it with my colleagues and taking into account that he was also registered blind, we felt that we should carefully consider his request.”

“This remarkable man came to us for help and has shown that you are never too old to have a cochlear implant. It can be life changing.

“Deafness is the second most common disability in the UK. One in six of UK adults have a hearing loss and many suffer in silence.

“Only 5% of people in the UK who could benefit from a cochlear implant are estimated to have received one.”

What is a cochlear implant?

A cochlear implant is a prosthetic device that uses electrical stimulation to provide the sense of sound which is surgically implanted behind the ear.

As well as having problems with his hearing for most of his life, Leslie is also registered blind and can only see things when they are very close up.

Mr Ahamad said: “Blindness cuts you off from things but deafness cuts you off from people.

“Since his hearing deteriorated, Leslie had been trapped in a cocoon of silence made worse by blindness.

“He has no family left and used to communicate with friends through the telephone but could not any longer.”

Ruth Cole, Mr Ahmad and Leslie Hodgson

Due to Leslie’s age, the operation was done under local anaesthetic, which meant he was awake for both the operations performed in one procedure.

Since the operation, Leslie has returned to the hospital to get his implant successfully switched on.

Despite having a record-breaking operation to fix his hearing, Leslie is not standing still and now wants to tackle his blindness.

Leslie said: “Next year I want stem cell treatment for my eyes.”

With Leslie’s determination, you would not bet against it.