Henry Cooper's hearing survived Muhammad Ali - but ageing nerves landed the knock-out blow
Posted Jul 29 2010 8:30am
No sporting icon is more affable than Sir Henry Cooper - so it was a surprise to fans when he began shunning them in the street. And it was even more of a surprise to the former heavyweight boxing champ when he found out that's what he'd been doing.
'I'd be out walking with one of my sons and he'd say: "Dad, that man just spoke to you." But I hadn't heard him. I realised I must have been completely ignoring people when I was on my own.
It was a shock because I try to be friendly, keep with the Our 'Enry image, and people must have thought I was rude. It brought it home to me that I really was going deaf,' says Sir Henry, 76.
It is estimated that there are 4 million people who struggle on without hearing aids or cochlear implants, enduring social isolation and embarrassment and even risking their lives, for example when they fail to hear approaching traffic or smoke alarms.
For Sir Henry, two major events prompted him to seek help. First, his devoted wife Albina died suddenly two years ago of a heart attack. Without her, he found social gatherings much more difficult.
He says: 'When she was by my side, I could relax because she would tell me off if I did the wrong thing. She would say: "You're nodding, you should be shaking your head."'
Then last year, he had to stop doing the live TV and radio interviews, which had made him a popular pundit and his after-dinner speaking, which is greeted with standing ovations, was threatened. Sir Henry knew he had to act.