It’s a dif­fer­ent world for Pamela

‘Amaz­ing’ im­plant re­stores former teacher’s hear­ing

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS -

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

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