"The great news is that I will still be able to hear even if I reach 100."
On the day these photos were taken, Margaret was very excited about a parcel that had just arrived.
Inside was a small, but important box that marked the next step in Margaret’s journey to better hearing – a Cochlear™ Wireless Phone Clip to help her communicate more easily on the phone.
Until a year ago, the 74-year-old grandmother relied on text messaging to stay in contact with friends and family, and is thankful that at least she went almost deaf in the age of mobile phone technology.
Usually for many women of Margaret’s age, finding it harder to hear is a gradual process. Age-related hearing loss (known as presbycusis) affects two thirds of people aged over 70. However, Margaret’s deafness was sudden.
Two years ago, she was struck with a severe bout of labyrinthitis – an inner ear infection.
“I lost my balance and could hardly stand up. When I went to bed, I had a terrible noise in my ears. When I woke up in the morning, I couldn’t hear anything.”
Margaret had first suffered from labyrinthitis in her 60s, which left her hearing impaired and reliant on hearing aids. She was able to stay working in an accountancy firm, spending a lot of time on the phone, until she retired at 68.
But after the last bout of labyrinthitis, she was told there was little hearing aids could do for her.
“I felt very isolated as I could not communicate with anybody. I couldn’t hear my own voice or listen to music. I didn’t enjoy going out and if I did, I couldn’t wait to get home.”
“If I went to the shops, I couldn’t hear what the shop assistant was saying. People can be so rude and intolerant when they have to repeat themselves because you can’t hear. I wanted to tell them ‘my hearing is not perfect but there is nothing wrong with my brain’.”
She says life would have been intolerable if it wasn’t for her rescue dogs – Prince, a Papillon and Bibi, a Maltese. Their barking and body language signalled a visitor, so Margaret knew if anyone was knocking at her door or walking round the back of her home in Sunninghill, Ascot. Margaret also felt safer taking them for their daily walks.
“If someone came up too close behind me when I was out walking, the dogs would make me aware. Especially Prince, he would turn and growl. Without the dogs, I could have been taken unaware and that would have been very frightening. Life would have been awful without them.”
When viral damage was confirmed, Margaret’s audiologist referred her to the John Radcliffe Hospital implant centre to be assessed for a Cochlear implant.
She met the criteria and was put on a six-month waiting list, but a cancellation meant she had the operation at two weeks’ notice.
“I was a bit frightened at first as I had let my imagination run away with me and thought the operation would be near my brain,” she said. “But I needn’t have worried as my surgeon reassured me that hundreds of Cochlear implants are done every year and it is a safe procedure with low risks. I had every confidence in him, which made me quite calm as the operation approached. I was surprised I only had to stay in overnight afterwards.”
Margaret had her operation in September 2014 and her implant was switched on four weeks later.
“It was like a miracle,” she says of the switch on. “Although the sounds are quite robotic at first, you get used to it quite quickly. You have to persevere with it. I can’t complain as it has made a huge difference to my life.”
As only one Cochlear implant could be fitted, Margaret’s hearing hasn’t been restored fully as she is still deaf in one ear due to the labyrinthitis. She finds it easier to hold a conversation when talking with someone face to face. Every so often, she realises that she is talking too loudly and makes a determined effort to speak quietly – a throwback she says from when she went almost deaf and couldn’t hear her own voice.
Occasionally, she has a reminder of what life was like before her Cochlear implant operation.
“I forgot to put it on the other day when I took the dogs out for a walk in the morning. Someone came up to me, but I couldn’t hear word they were saying.”
Margaret says she is lucky to have this chance of hearing again at her age and knows that, thanks to the continued advancements of cochlear technology, she now has an advantage over her peers – “The great news is that I will still be able to hear even if I reach 100.”
For now, she can’t wait to read the instructions and work out how to use her new wireless phone clip accessory so she can enjoy a conversation with friends as “texting can be so frustrating.”
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.