ANYONE who has ever suffered even just temporary hearing loss will know how isolating it can feel.

So patients of The Hearing Care Centre in Colchester arrived in their droves to help it celebrate 20 years of life-changing hearing treatment and to share their stories.

The centre was founded by managing director and senior audiologist Vicki Skeels in 1998 and was based in Crouch Street in the town before it relocated to its home in Headgate, in 2002.

Today it has around 6,500 patients on its books who opt for non-NHS hearing care.

It also has satellite centres in Tiptree, West Mersea, Frinton, Manningtree and at the Oaks Hospital, Colchester.

Patients who attended the centre’s 20th anniversary afternoon tea at the Wivenhoe House Hotel included Pamela Boulden.

Pamela, 69 and from Colchester, said: “I started using The Hearing Care Centre because I became deaf when I was aged about seven or eight from measles.

“My mum didn’t take me to the doctors and I’d picked it up from a play mate. A neighbour rang the doctor but by then the damage was done.”

Pamela had lost about 60 per cent of her hearing but managed to lip read.

“I got victimised at school, I hated it,” she said. “But you manage to adapt.”

She left school to work as an office junior but avoided answering the phones through fear of not hearing what people said.

Naturally her confidence was affected.

“People think you’re stupid but you’re not. I wouldn’t go up to people and talk to them,” Pamela added.

Years later, having moved to Colchester, Pamela was attending lip reading classes and was advised to try The Hearing Care Centre for more advanced hearing aids than the one she had tried briefly when younger.

That was 19 years ago.

Pamela, who is married to John, said: “I couldn’t afford it at the time so they said I could pay in instalments and I’ve never looked back.”

Today the grandmother-of-three continues to visit the centre for check-ups but credits it with changing her life.

Michael Geaves from West Mersea is another Hearing Care Centre client.

The 67 year-old retired businessman said: “When you lose your hearing gradually, as I did at first, it is bad and you want to know why you have lost it. “

But Michael has also suffered bouts of sudden hearing loss since.

Wife Jackie added: “When you lose it suddenly, it is devastating. We had to teach the grandchildren what to do if they wanted his attention.”

Now Michael has a digital hearing aid which even links up to his mobile phone so he knows when someone is trying to contact him.

Tuesday’s celebration was also attended by staff from The Hearing Care Centre and Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon Don McFerran.

Vicki said: "I am so delighted to be able to mark this 20 year milestone for The Hearing Care Centre in the company of longstanding and loyal clients, friends, associates and, of course, my wonderful team of staff.

"When I first established the company in 1998, it was with a commitment to the highest standards of customer care and service, with a genuine passion to help improve quality of life for hearing impaired people. This ethos has shaped all that we do and, over the years, we have had the great satisfaction of seeing so many lives and relationships transformed, just by being able to hear again.’"

Highlights for for Vicki have been aplenty but they include when the first digital hearing aids were introduced in 1996.

She added: "The company has certainly grown up in the digital age. As someone who used slide rules at school before the invention of the calculator you can tell that a tremendous amount of ongoing training has taken place over the years.

"Who would have thought that hearing aids could be controlled by a remote control hidden in a watch or a pen let, alone an iPhone."

In 2014 Vicki also went on a "life changing" charity trip to Romania, to fit old aids donated by clients for disadvantaged pensioners there.

The centre has also received many customer service awards and industry accolades over the years.

Vicki was crowned Colchester Businesswoman of the Year in 2012 and last year celebrated 40 years as an audiologist.

And throughout its history the centre has supported Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, having hosted a number of fundraising events and activities.