A swimming enthusiast has undergone a pioneering surgical procedure to improve her hearing after she woke up completely deaf one morning.

Helena Martins, 40, from Tooting, was given a cochlear implant at St George's Hospital on October 17 after suffering from a range of hearing problems for the last six years.

The implant is a small electronic device that sits behind the ear with a second portion that is surgically placed under the skin to aid hearing.

The hearing problems began in 2007 when she suffered bouts of dizziness and nausea, causing her to start using a stick to walk, but her condition quickly deteriorated and she started collapsing as a result.

Ms Martins then started experiencing a constant ringing in her ears and was diagnosed with tinnitus, followed by the complete loss of hearing in her left ear.

But the day Ms Martins woke up unable to hear at all marked another stage in the gradual decline of her hearing which began when she contracted vertigo as a result of Meniere's disease - a rare condition that affects the inner ear.

Ms Martins, who immediately rushed downstairs to tell her partner, said: "I just remember a wave of panic flooding through me.

"Two of my greatest loves are film and music. My introduction to learning to understand English was through musicians like Queen and David Bowie and suddenly I could barely hear anything.

"It’s surreal to walk along a busy street and not hear anything. It feels like being inside a dream. It’s not a pleasant feeling and is very isolating."

But, having come through the operation successfully, life is now looking up again for the Tooting resident who now swims every morning at Tooting Leisure Centre.

Ms Martins said: "It doesn’t replace natural hearing but it’s a step forward and I am grateful to the doctors involved because I still feel sad about losing much of my hearing."