• The Hearing House

Husband and wife have special cochlear implant bond


When inspiration took hold, Amanda Cameron rolled with it - literally.

After watching footage of New Zealand para-cyclist Phillipa Gray win a gold, silver and bronze medal, at the London 2012 Paralympic Games on television programme Attitude, Amanda was inspired to take up Para-Sport.

Just like Amanda, Phillipa is sight and hearing impaired from Usher Syndrome.

In 2013, Amanda tried Para-Cycling and in the space of five years her accomplishments have been many.

She has competed in a number of national and world championships where she has won medals and gained a number of top 10 finishes. She has also represented New Zealand at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 where she placed fourth, narrowly missing out on a bronze medal.

The 29-year-old was born profoundly deaf, and was later diagnosed with Usher Syndrome type 1, which means deafness and retinitis pigmentosa (slowly deteriorating vision).

Amanda is legally blind, with continually deteriorating peripheral vision which she says is like looking “through a tunnel”.

Amanda grew up just out of Gisborne and received hearing aids just before she turned one-year-old.

While she was at primary school her hearing loss worsened and when she was 11 years old she received her first cochlear implant.

"When I first got the CI, I didn't like it. [The sound] was mechanical. It wasn't what I expected.

"It probably took about three months before I was comfortable with it."

Amanda says she went to a small school where "no one was bothered" by the fact she was deaf.

"No one treated me differently. I never thought I couldn't do anything because of my deafness."

Amanda chose to get her second cochlear implant when she was 21 because her sight was getting worse.

"When I was born my sight was normal, but it is getting worse and worse. And it will keep getting worse. As my sight gets worse, I'll still have my hearing. I'll still have a sense of direction at night."

Amanda, an Architectural Technician, met her husband Grant Rutherford, 38, at a deaf club in Wellington nine years ago.

Grant had hearing aids in both ears. He considered getting a cochlear implant years earlier, but decided not to go ahead with it.

"But with Amanda having 2, I started thinking about it."

He says he could see the benefit to him while he is at Waikato University studying a degree in human performance.

Grant's cochlear implant surgery was held in April.

Before the surgery he said "I'm a bit nervous and at the same time I'm excited because I'll be hearing more".

Amanda was really excited for Grant.

"I know how much he helped me, and because of my experience I'll be able to help him adjust to it. I know it will be hard work, but it will be worth it."

Six months after surgery Amanda reports that “Grant's hearing is improving loads!”.

“He is hearing lots that he never heard before, like the clock ticking.

“Even though I went through the same thing, it is pretty amazing to see it happen to someone else!”

The couple, who married in November 2017, moved from Wellington to Cambridge so she could train with the New Zealand Para-Cycling squad and have since bought their own home.

Amanda qualified for the Paralympics because of her sight, and was the only Kiwi to attend who was also profoundly deaf.

Cyclists with a visual impairment race on a tandem bike with a sighted cyclist (pilot) sitting in the front. Amanda's pilot is Hannah van Kampen.

Amanda says when it comes to competing, being able to hear her coach on the sideline is vital.

"There is a lot of listening for me to do, and communicating from the coach. I have enough hearing to be able to hear the coach."

She says competing in Rio was "pretty amazing", and it was an honour to represent the country, especially as she'd only been riding for about two years.

"The atmosphere.....I can't compare it to anything else. It was very inspiring."

Amanda, watched by Grant, her parents and sister, and Hannah competed in the sprint race and their specialty - the 3km pursuit. The fact they placed fourth after a very close race was "bittersweet" and "very frustrating".

She returned to Rio in March 2018 to compete in the Para-Cycling Track World Championships where she placed 4th in the individual B pursuit and 5th in the 1km time trial.

Amanda and Hannah then went to Italy in August 2018 and competed at the Para-Cycling Track World Championships.

“We placed 5th in the road race and 6th in the time trial – it was a great result as road isn't my strongest specialty so it was exciting to get a good result out of it and know there is still more to work on.”