It’s a different world for Pamela
‘Amazing’ implant restores former teacher’s hearing
Retired teacher Pamela Reynolds, 78, from Chesham, had her cochlear implant operation in January at the John Radcliffe Hospital and was switched on two weeks later. She had gone deaf due to age-related hearing loss.
“That’s amazing!” were the first words spoken by Mrs Reynolds the moment after her cochlear implant was switched on.
She added: “I expected to hear sound, but didn’t think I would hear actual words.” Up until then, the 78-year-old had been totally deaf for nearly three years and had struggled with hearing aids for more than 20 years.
Although it is early days since her operation, both Mrs Reynolds and her husband Robin have noticed a huge difference to their lives.
She said: “Even from day one, the moment I came home, I’ve not had to have people write a single word down for me.
“It’s given me my confidence back and I can already talk to people now on a one to one basis.”
Until now, Mrs Reynolds has always carried a pen and paper in her handbag so her husband and friends can write down questions and communicate with her.
At the family home in Chesham, her daughter taught her the signing alphabet, and her son used a voice recognition programme on his iPad to convert speech into text so that his mum could join in conversations.
Describing his wife’s implant, Mr Reynolds said: “Tremendous – that’s the word for it. We can talk normally – it is a different world now for both of us.”
A lifelong bird watcher, Mrs Reynolds realised she had a problem with her hearing when she saw a Skylark but realised she could not hear it sing.
That was when she was 40, but she carried on as a teacher of PE and biology, managing to do playground duty, leading inter-school matches and teaching in the classroom as normal. It was not until she reached her early 50s that she realised she could not hear high notes.
She said: “I suddenly noticed I couldn’t hear my watch ticking, so I went to the GP and was given hearing aids. But in those days hearing aids were no use as they didn’t pick up the high notes, just exaggerated the noises I could already hear so when a cup was put onto the table it made me jump.”
Later, she moved onto digital hearing aids which worked better but her hearing still gradually declined.
Five years ago, she went back to her audiologist for help but was told that because she was coping there was nothing else that could be done.
Naturally resilient, Mrs Reynolds continued to do the things she loved, such as playing tennis at her local club and going to church, but made adjustments to adapt to her increasing deafness.
She added: “I tried to stay positive and have had good support from my family, the tennis club, church and friends who were always ready to write things down for me. And I felt fortunate that I could continue to enjoy the countryside and playing tennis. But I had to step down as a tennis club captain because I couldn’t do the last minute phone calls to find match partners. And although I still went regularly to church because I like all the people there, I could no longer hear them or the music or understand the sermon.”
Within 18 months of seeing the audiologist, Mrs Reynolds was totally deaf.
She said: “That is when I finally made it to the John Radcliffe”.
A few weeks on from the switch on, Mrs Reynolds is still amazed at the amount she can hear.
She said: “I had said to myself before the operation, if I can just hear sound I would be lucky, but I didn’t think I would hear actual words straight away and certainly didn’t expect to hear as much sound so soon.”
The noises are not how she remembers them and says at the moment they sound quite synthetic.
For example, the sound of water pouring into a cup sounds like a rattle, she says, and the crunching of a newspaper “sounds like nails going over a rasp.”
Soon after switch-on she was able to have a two hour conversation with her son and a week later Pamela went to church.
She said: “I could hear the organ and the prayers too, and hear people singing so I could join in. It was terrific.”
As her hearing progressively gets better, she is hoping that soon she will be able to listen to bird song once again. A CHESHAM charity’s oldest volunteer suddenly died last week at the age of 91.
Workaid veteran volunteer Frank Cunningham died on Wednesday, April 27.
Mr Cunningham had completed a shift at Workaid earlier that day.
Mr Cunningham joined Workaid, based in Townsend Road, Chesham, in May 1989 and was one of the first volunteers when the charity was based in a wooden hut in the grounds of Amersham Free Church.
For more than 30 years, Mr Cunningham worked on a variety of tasks and was always willing to learn and adapt to new skills.
In his latter years, Mr Cunningham was involved in the charity’s office work and still helped out three or four times a week.
At the recent celebration to mark the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service at The Elgiva on April 16, Mr Cunningham received the Award Certificate from Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for Buckinghamshire Sir Henry Aubrey-Fletcher.
The patrons, trustees and all at Workaid send their condolences to Mr Cunningham’s family and friends.
Workaid Chairman Rob Levine said “Frank was an inspiration and an example of volunteering commitment. He will be sadly missed.”
Pamela Reynolds who has recently been given a cochlear implant