"Many people might be frightened at the prospect of an operation, but it is nothing compared to the reward of hearing again."
It is the simple things in life that Carol now takes pleasure in. The 70-year-old grandmother enjoys listening to the car radio and chatting to her husband on long drives, or picking up the phone for a good natter with her best friend. Both her husband Alan and her friends have noticed the transformation in Carol since she had her Cochlear implant in January after years of severe hearing loss.
“She now sings around the house,” says Alan.
Although it’s almost a year after the operation, Carol admits she still can’t quite believe the difference the Cochlear implant has made to her life.
“I often think ‘oh I couldn’t do that before the operation’,” she says. “It is a real life-changer. My best friend said the other day ‘I can’t believe we are actually talking on the phone, I thought I had lost you’.”
Her only regret is that she wishes she had had the operation sooner.
“I found out I could have had it at least three years earlier and I wish I had done so.”
Carol’s hearing started to deteriorate when she was in her late 20s but it was her GP who noticed she was struggling to hear. He took out a tuning fork and hit it on the table. Carol’s lack of response to the sound sparked the start of years of appointments with audiologists.
When Carol returned to work after raising her two children, she bought her own hearing aids (later relying on NHS ones) in order to cope in an office environment. She also realised that she would have to hand pick jobs.
“I knew my limits and as using the telephone was always the worst aspect, I relied on my shorthand and clerical skills.”
A few years before she retired, she was working for a small company, but was on the point of resigning because she could no longer hear people on the telephone. However, her boss didn’t want to lose his secretary, so he offered to answer the phone calls.
Carol’s hearing had become progressively worse, and by 2004 she was profoundly deaf in her left ear and had only residual hearing in the right.
“It was dreadful – I didn’t want to go out and I cut off my social life. If we were invited to parties I would either chicken out or we would leave early. I became quite depressed and relied on Alan an awful lot.”
When they moved house from Buckinghamshire to Benson in Oxfordshire, her audiologist transferred her medical notes to the team at the John Radcliffe Hospital where Carol says she finally “struck lucky”. The hospital has a Cochlear implant centre and her new audiologist recommended Carol consider this technology as she was no longer benefitting from hearing aids. As well as tests to see if she would be a suitable candidate, including MRI and bone scans, Carol was also put in touch with the Oxford Cochlear Implant Support Group where she was able to meet and talk with people who had gone through the operation.
She was due to have the Cochlear implant on her left ear but on the day of her operation, January 12, her husband asked the surgeon if the implant could be switched to the right.
“We go out in the car a lot to visit friends and National Trust places and he wanted to be able to talk to me while he was driving. The surgeon agreed as I only had residual hearing in my right ear.”
It was a decision that has given them so much pleasure ever since. Carol stayed in overnight following the operation and then went back to the John Radcliffe Hospital, two weeks later for the implant to be switched on. “Driving home that day was memorable as I could hear my husband in the car – that really knocked my socks off.”
Carol says that initially voices sounded squeaky and it took a few weeks for speech to sound normal.
“It takes a while for the brain to get used to the new sounds, but it is getting better all the time.”
Another memorable moment came when Carol was able to talk to her four-year-old granddaughter who lives in Holland via Skype.
“I had known before I had the implant that Isabella was making noises but couldn’t understand her. When I first spoke to her through Skype after the implant it was lovely to hear what she was actually saying.”
To celebrate her 70th birthday, Carol’s family, including her son, daughter and two grandchildren, went on holiday to Spain.
“It was an incredible holiday with the family and I couldn’t believe I could have conversations, even talking to people across a swimming pool.”
Following a recent visit, a family friend wrote a thank-you note and told Carol how lovely it was to see her so much happier.
“I have got my independence back and it has given me a confidence boost. It is great to feel I can now handle my own affairs such as making phone calls and appointments without having to rely on Alan.”
He too is feeling the benefits of Carol’s implant.
“Before the operation, Carol seldom went out independently. She lost her confidence with people and it was especially difficult in shops so I always had to be with her,” he says. “I was almost becoming her carer. But since this, she is more confident and the big thing for me is seeing Carol so much more relaxed with people. It is a complete transformation. It has opened up another life for her and given me time to do things for myself.”
Carol now returns to the Oxford Cochlear Implant Support Group regularly to act as an advocate for the technology and talk to other people who are considering the operation.
“It has made such a difference to my life that I would like others to know that deafness can be overcome with an implant and they can start living again,” she says. “Many people might be frightened at the prospect of an operation, but it is nothing compared to the reward of hearing again.”
The information on this website is for educational purposes, and is not intended to replace medical advice. Please consult a hearing healthcare professional to diagnose or treat a hearing or health problem.