The first ever cochlear implant at Groote Schuur Hospital has completely changed the life of a 37-year-old man.Xolani Maxhego of Gugulethu went from being profoundly deaf to being able to have a normal conversation with his family and friends.Maxhego is even contemplating returning to work after his ordeal forced him to leave his job at a local butchery.Speaking to journalists at the hospital on Thursday 18 October, Maxhego said it felt like he had just woken from a dream. “It was hard not to be able to hear. I would just sit on the sofa and not go out because to people I would seem like I was insane,” said Maxhego.He was a victim of a brutal assault which left him with multiple skull fractures in 2003. He presented to Groote Schuur Hospital in 2017 with meningitis as a result of his previous injuries and lost his hearing completely in both ears following the meningitis. Doctors explained on Thursday that Maxhego could not hear at all. But thanks to a cochlear implant worth about R250 000, donated by Med-El Implant Systems, Maxhebo’s life has changed.A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf. An external portion of it sits behind the ear and a second portion is surgically placed under the skin. The device sends signals to the brain, which recognises them as sound.Med-El South Africa’s managing director, Charles Dippenaar, was ecstatic knowing that the company had changed someone’s life.“We got involved in this project to change lives in South Africa and the rest of Africa,” he said.Dippenaar said the company has been involved in a lot of African development programmes where they want to make this “fantastic” technology available to patients.“There are so many people that are profoundly deaf and children born deaf and because of the cost of these devices, very few people can access them. Our aim is to make them more available to the people of South Africa and Africa,” said Dippenaar.He challenged other corporate companies to follow suit and support the hospital’s implant unit.Med-El partnered with ENT specialist Tashneem Harris, audiologists Adri Schlichting and Zane Solomons, rehabilitation specialist Nikki Keeton, and the hospital, to make the project a success.Keeton explained that a lot of programming takes place with cochlear implants and one needs specialised training to know how it works. She said Maxhego was lucky to be able to hear the moment the device was switched on.According to Keeton, patients who have had long-standing deafness would need a lot of training to understand how sound works and learn to hear again.Harris said Maxhego would undergo mapping, a lifelong process that will see his hearing monitored at certain intervals as the brain adjusts to the sounds produced by the device.A smiling Maxhego said: “I was helped and I am grateful. If I had anything valuable, I would give it to the people who helped,” said Maxhego. Spokesperson for the hospital, Alaric Jacobs, expressed pride in the project’s success.