Rula Lenska: It is time to tell the truth about my hearing loss

Actress Rula Lenska explains why she hid her deafness for a decade…

AGED 63 Rula Lenska looks as striking as she has always done, from the elegant figure to the glorious flame-red hair that remains her crowning glory. “I’m lucky that it is as thick as it ever was,” she says.

Any woman would surely say the same but Rula has an additional reason for loving the luxuriant curls that frame her face. For the past seven years her hair has helped conceal a closely-guarded secret: hearing aids in each ear that help her make sense of the sounds around her.

Hearing Loss

Obviously Actors speak clearly on stage it really isn't a problem - Rula Lenska

“I have no idea, even now, how my hearing became so damaged,” she says, speaking publicly for the first time about the hearing loss that until a few months ago no more than the half-dozen people closest to her knew about.

“The best guess my specialist has come up with is at some point 20 years or so ago, when I was a very keen scuba diver, I picked up an ear infection that went mostly unnoticed.

“That’s quite common among divers because of the pressure diving at depth puts on the inner ear canal.

“There’s no history of it in my family but about 10 years ago it did become clear to me that I really wasn’t hearing everything that was going on around me, particularly high sounds and in large gatherings where there was a lot of background noise.”

Not to mention on stage, where she has continued to have a flourishing career while appearing on our screens in EastEnders and most recently as mischievous hairdresser Claudia Colby in Coronation Street. A little later this year she will be back on the road again with the touring production of Calendar Girls.

It was while doing this kind of work that the full extent of her hearing loss became apparent to her a decade ago.

“Obviously actors speak clearly and on stage it really isn’t a problem, everyone is quiet and the script takes its course,” says Rula.

“But when it came to rehearsals which so often take place in echoing halls, I often had real difficulty following what was going on. I would sometimes confide in the director but I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t hear too well.”

She feared attitudes towards her might alter if her deafness became generally known.

“There is a real stigma the hard of hearing have to face, particularly women of a certain age. With all the difficulties that face a female actor once you’re past 40, it’s one more problem you don’t want to add to the list.

“So I did a lot of pretending. I did a lot of smiling and nodding and saying ‘Oh, yes’ to people, hoping I’d got away with it but I was aware that I was only picking up every eighth or ninth word.

“It came to the point where I knew I had to do something constructive and about seven years ago I finally decided to go and have a hearing test.”

She discovered she had lost a good deal of her ability to hear sounds in the upper registers, the part of the hearing which helps us filter out background noise and that there was no cure.

In the UK there are an estimated nine-million people living with significant hearing loss: around one in every seven adults, roughly three-quarters aged over 60.

Research by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People suggests that it can take up to 15 years for people who clearly have hearing loss to be tested and that four million people in the UK have undiagnosed hearing loss.

Yet the experts are trying to get the message across that it is better to get tested early and start wearing hearing aids sooner rather than later. This is because getting used to amplified sound is harder if you’ve already become accustomed to a quieter world.

“What I find difficult now is multi-tasking,” explains Rula. “I used to have the telly or radio on, have a conversation and do some household chores all at the same. Now it has to be one at a time.

“Hearing aids, although they are wonderful pieces of technology these days, are not entirely the answer because the sound they bring to your ears is not sound as it was when your ears were young.

“I had to try a lot of different types before I found one that I felt suited me and I discovered this would have been a much easier process if I’d sought help earlier. I can’t stress enough to anyone who thinks they might have hearing loss how important it is to have a hearing test as quickly as possible.

“I have become accustomed to mine but there are times when they amplify the wrong noises too much. But I do remember noticing little, pleasurable sounds I hadn’t heard for a long time, such as birdsong, the crackling of a newspaper, the swishing sound jeans make as they rub together when you walk along.”

Her high-tech digital hearing aids, complete with remote control, are all but invisible with or without that glorious hair. Although she could quite easily have kept her secret, she decided to “out” herself after speaking with fellow Coronation Street star Bill Roache.

“He has only talked about his deafness in recent years, so I told him about my problems.

“It was his suggestion that I help with this year’s Sound Barrier Star Awards, as he did last year, to find someone who has refused to let hearing difficulties get in the way of a full and fulfilling life.

“I decided that it was time to stop trying to hide. The sense of release was wonderful and such a change from struggling to hear and pretending that I could hear.

“And it’s not all bad. I don’t have any trouble getting to sleep wherever I am. I take out the hearing aids and it’s better than cotton wool. When I’m on tour, it’s brilliant to be an actor who is a little hard of hearing.”


By Cheryl Stonehouse:


What exactly is sudden hearing loss and are there any treatments for sudden hearing loss ?

Hearing loss



Sudden Hearing Loss Sudden sensorineural hearing loss is defined by a sudden loss of hearing within a 72 hour period, resulting in greater than a 30 dB drop in hearing for at least three consecutive test frequencies.


Sudden Hearing Loss Symptoms
Sudden hearing loss most typically occurs in one ear and varies in severity from patient to patient. For some, the onset of the sudden hearing loss is reported to have been noticed instantaneously, often in the morning. Others report the onset of hearing loss occurred over a period of hours or often days.

Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) typically accompanies sudden hearing loss. Vertigo (dizziness) has also been reported to be present in roughly 40% of sudden hearing loss cases.

Sudden Hearing Loss Causes
Although the exact cause of sudden hearing loss is unknown for most people, there are many potential causes of sudden hearing loss, including: viral infections, neurologic issues, metabolic and immunologic disease, toxicity, trauma to the inner ear, circulatory problems of the inner ear such as meniere’s disease, idiopathic (unknown) and others.

Sudden Hearing Loss Diagnosis and Treatment
People who experience a sudden loss of hearing should seek medical attention immediately from a qualified health professional.

The diagnosis of sudden hearing loss begins with having a full hearing evaluation to assess the amount of hearing loss that has occurred. Based on the audiogram and a full evaluation by a physician, the sudden hearing loss is diagnosed.

The physician may suspect possible causes based on case history and the physical evaluation. Blood work and imaging tests are also often recommended to rule out possible medical causes.

Treatment for sudden hearing loss has been controversial and inconsistent among physicians due to the fact the cause of the sudden hearing loss is often unknown. According to research presented at the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery Foundation meeting in 2008, there are no official guidelines or position statements regarding the evaluation and treatment of sudden sensorineural hearing loss (Friedland and Shemirani, 2008).

Currently the most common forms of treatment include oral-steroids and anti-viral medication prescribed typically by either a family physician or an otolaryngologist (ENT).

Between 32%–65% of patients who experience sudden sensorineural hearing loss will recover. Recovery is more likely to occur if the time between onset of symptoms and treatment is a short interval, vertigo is absent, a mild to moderate hearing loss, a mid-frequency/upsloping audiometric pattern, and the patient’s age is of 15–40 years old. “Because the chance of recovery is greater if the hearing loss is treated early—and because a significant percentage of patients do not recover their hearing—evaluation of treatment options is critical”

High-Tech Hearing Aids Put Seniors Back in the Conversation

Can You Hear Me Now? If you hope to reach old age with your hearing intact, you need to make sure you protect your ears throughout your life, says UAB geriatrician Andrew Duxbury, M.D. “Don’t stick earbuds in your ears and jack them up to the nth degree,” he says. “Wear ear protection if you work in a noisy place. If your ear feels numb or if you have ringing after hearing a noise, it was too loud. And if you do notice a hearing change, go to a hearing specialist.”



Five years ago, Ida, 68, a widow in Fort Payne, Alabama, began noticing she had to work hard to follow conversations. The pleasure of discussion had become a chore. “I knew someone was speaking, but I was missing words,” she says. “When I couldn’t hear my grandchildren, that motivated me to do something.” At UAB’s Kirklin Clinic, audiologist Cara Snable fitted Ida with tiny hearing units on each ear that have made a big difference in her quality of life.

New audio technologies have shrunk hearing aids to the point that they’re almost undetectable, while sound quality has improved tremendously, Snable says. And that’s good news for the estimated 20 to 40 percent of older adults with some sort of hearing impairment, notes UAB geriatrician Andrew Duxbury, M.D., a professor in the Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics, and Palliative Care.

It’s important to keep in mind that hearing well isn’t a perk—it’s a health necessity, Duxbury says. A person with hearing loss may not detect oncoming traffic as he or she crosses a road, for example. “When people feel less safe, they shrink their world,” says Duxbury. “They stop driving and socializing. If you cannot hear properly, you become isolated from what is going on in the world, from your family, and from your peer group.”

“It Doesn’t Even Look Like a Hearing Aid”

Many older adults are reluctant to seek help because they’re embarrassed to be seen with a hearing aid. But today’s devices are “a lot less noticeable than the large behind-the-ear units used to be,” Snable says. The miniature devices hide behind the ear, while a slim wire slips around to carry amplified sound into the ear.

The only thing you see is a tiny wire next to the skin. Even on a man with a short haircut, it’s barely visible,” Snable says. “And aside from traditional skin tones or hair colors, they come in bright colors like green, purple, and red, so they don’t even look like a hearing aid.”

Units that go in the ear “make you feel like your ears are plugged, like you’re hearing things from the bottom of a well,” Snable adds. But the tiny rubber piece that fits into the ear on newer devices allows sound waves to flow in and out more naturally than earlier aids. “It has vents that allow the voice to escape,” Snable says. “It’s closer to having a normal, open ear canal.” Placing the unit behind, rather than in, the ear also protects the unit from moisture, the number-one reason for malfunctions.

Digital Audio


Can You Hear Me Now?
If you hope to reach old age with your hearing intact, you need to make sure you protect your ears throughout your life, says UAB geriatrician Andrew Duxbury, M.D. “Don’t stick earbuds in your ears and jack them up to the nth degree,” he says. “Wear ear protection if you work in a noisy place. If your ear feels numb or if you have ringing after hearing a noise, it was too loud. And if you do notice a hearing change, go to a hearing specialist.”

Miniature behind-the-ear aids became popular about eight years ago for people with hearing loss in the higher frequencies, says Snable. (A person with higher frequency loss might be able to hear the lower pitch of a man’s voice better than his wife’s higher-pitched voice, for instance.) The older, in-ear aids trapped low-frequency sounds, but newer devices avoid this problem, Snable notes.

Over the last decade, hearing aids have gone digital, meaning that the sound is processed through a computer chip instead of a simple amplifier. That allows each hearing aid to be customized with user-specific programming. Snable initially set Ida’s aid for a 60 percent hearing adjustment so that her brain could adapt to the new sounds. A few weeks later, Snable reprogrammed it to the full setting that Ida needed.

Most patients remove their aids at night to preserve battery life, Snable says. Batteries cost about $1 apiece and have to be changed roughly once per week; a beep alerts the wearer that it’s time for a replacement.

“Hearing aids now are nearly automatic,” says Snable. “You don’t have to worry about turning the volume up and down. The chip knows the frequency of speech versus background noise, so it can cut out the background noise.”

Ida’s device has brought dramatic results. “Now I can hear leaves blowing, I can hear birds sing, and I can hear myself walking,” she says. “I can hear everything.”





Hearing Loss – featured on RTE FOUR Live

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Dr. Nina Byrnes – GP
Yvonne Kinsella – guest

Daniel O Donnell and Dr Nina Byrnes

Daniel O'Donnell and Dr.Nina Byrnes at the launch of Hearing Awareness Week





About Hearing Awareness Week

National advertising campaign encouraging people to take action about their hearing loss and encouraging family members to talk to their loved one about hearing loss. It will also feature a mobile hearing test clinic which is visiting some of Ireland’s cities and towns to provide free hearing tests and Hidden Hearing is also offering free hearing tests in its 60 clinics nationwide.

Hearing problems
. Noise
. Hearing loss with age
. Hearing and babies
. Ringing in the ears
. Build up of wax in the
. Medical causes
. Temporary Hearing Loss

How loud is Loud?

If you can’t talk to people about 2 meters away without shouting because of background noise, this is an indication that the surrounding noise levels are too loud. If you’ve been to a club or concert and found that you cannot hear properly for a few hours afterwards, or if you experience ringing in your ears, that is a sign that the sound was loud enough to damage your ears. If the level of the sound hurts your ears – take care by leaving

How does a modern hearing aid work?

The new generation of modern hearing aids use computer processing and multidirectional microphones to pick out speech from a noisy environment, so the important speech element is filtered back to the wearer. And if you are using two hearing aids, both devices communicate with each other in real time, so they adapt in sync to the noise environment. To improve people’s experience of using mobile phones, TVs, radios and other audio and entertainment devices, some new digital hearing aids can even connect wirelessly to these devices so you have a seamless hearing experience. Things have certainly moved on for the best.

How visible is a hearing aid device?

Hearing aids can differ in size and appearance. Often negative perceptions of hearing aids are fueled by memories of older, analogue hearing aids. The new digital hearing aids are so much more technologically advanced and discreet; they are often invisible to other people. ‘In The Ear’ hearing aids are the most popular style recommended by Hidden Hearing. These hearing aids are custom made for each patient. An impression of the inside of your ear is taken by the Audiologist to ensure that the shell of the hearing aid is made to exactly match the contours of your ear.

There are mobile hearing test clinics across the country this week.

It’s visiting some of Ireland’s cities and towns to provide free hearing tests and Hidden Hearing is also offering free hearing tests in its 60 clinics nationwide.

Further Information

Hey Mr DJ, you can turn the music down now

"Now I can go away relaxed. It is a marvellous thing to be able to hear again,"



When Thomas Maye wasn’t flying up and down the coast with Irish Helicopters, he was spinning discs in his role as disc jockey at youth discos in his native Cork.

But life for the father of four, although hectic and fulfilling, was having a devastating toll on his hearing.

“I was with Irish helicopters for 13 and a half years in the 1980s and 1990s, going up and down the west coast to the oil rigs and fish farms and with the Search and Rescue.

“Most of the time we just wore an ordinary headset, which wasn’t worth tuppence but in those days you would just get on with it.

“It was the same when I was a DJ throughout the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s. You wouldn’t wear the headset half the time and the music was blaring.

“The louder it was the better. Everyone was out dancing and enjoying themselves and you didn’t even think how loud it was,” he recalled.

The 73-year-old remembers his late wife, Josephine, remarking on how loud the television was as far back as 10 years ago but it was nine years before he addressed the problem.

In the meantime, he became expert at compensating and covering up.

‘I was vice-chairman of the southern region of the Active Retired group and assistant secretary of my own local group. I was also chairman of the local GAA club and president and captain of the Mahon Golf Club so I was at a lot of meetings and I was finding it difficult to hear what was going on.

“I would study people’s lips but I used to get embarrassed because sometimes I would be asked a question and I would say ‘yes’, or ‘no’ or nod my head and I would be worried that I might have said the wrong thing.

“I remember one night I was out at dinner with a party of eight and I was chatting to the man who was sitting beside me but there were people across the table who started speaking to me and I couldn’t hear what they were saying.

“I was trying to nod and smile when someone else was nodding and smiling but I hadn’t a clue what was happening,” he confesses.

Even on the golf course, Thomas came up with techniques to disguise his hearing loss.

“If there was three of us going out, I would have to get into the middle to know what the other two were talking about,” he says.

About a year ago, he ended up sitting beside the manager of Hidden Hearing in Cork, Philip Cornwell, at a dinner party. They got chatting and he agreed to go for a hearing test.

“He put in a set of hearing aids and walked around Cork City with me.

“I couldn’t believe the difference.

“He stood me inside the Old English Market where people are buzzing around all the time and walked in a circle around me, about three or four feet away from me, and I was able to hear him even when he was behind my back .

‘Before that I had to be looking at a person straight in the face or leaning over to try to hear them. They have made a big difference to my life.

he said.

These days when his sons call around, they are the ones telling him to turn up the television.

“It is the opposite to the way it used to be. They say ‘God dad, turn up that television, I can’t hear it,’ and I can hear it perfectly. I can even hear clocks ticking,” he said.

He added that once the hearing aids are in, he hardly notices he is wearing them.

“The very odd time if I am rushing out the door and I forget to put them in, the difference is unbelievable,” he said.

Thomas, who is currently compiling a photographic history of his hometown of Carrigaline, has resumed enjoyment of his extensive music collection, ranging from Elvis and Sinatra to heavy metal, as he works at his computer.

But the songs that have particular poignancy are those of Andrea Bocelli, a love of whom he shared with his late wife Josephine, who died of cancer over six years ago, after 41 years of marriage.

– Anita Guidera

Irish Independent


Daniel O’Donnell: I’m open to stage musicals

By Ken Sweeney Entertainment Editor irish Independant

Tuesday March 22 2011

Daniel ODonnell

Daniel O'Donnell at the launch of Hearing Awareness Week with Hidden Hearing Medical Consultant Dr.Nina Byrnes

FOR 30 years he has enjoyed a massively successful career as a recording artist.

But country star Daniel O’Donnell may be about to give Wet Wet Wet’s Marti Pellow a run for his money.

The 50-year-old revealed last night that after deciding his days doing big tours were over, he was now “open to offers” to do stage musicals.

“I would like to do something in a musical if an opportunity came up,” he told the Irish Independent.

“I like all the musicals and a while ago I was asked to do something in ‘Chicago’.

“I couldn’t do it because of touring but if something came up again I would definitely look at it. I have never done any acting and I’m not saying I could act … maybe I couldn’t do it at all, but I would like the musical part of it. If it doesn’t happen, I don’t mind but I’m open to offers.”

The Donegal man was speaking as he launched Hearing Awareness Week 2011 after playing a key role in encouraging his own mother Julia (92) to seek treatment for her own hearing loss.

“My mother suffered from quite severe hearing loss impairment, so conversations became increasingly difficult for her. But we encouraged her to seek treatment and now she lives a much improved lifestyle,” he said.

As part of Hearing Awareness Week, free hearing tests will be on offer from Hidden Hearing and at a mobile hearing test clinic travelling around the country.

– Ken Sweeney Entertainment Editor

Irish Independent







hearing awareness week




Monday 21st March 2011: 57% of hearing loss sufferers said the volume of the television was one of the initial indicators of their hearing loss, while more than half (52%) said they pretended to hear what people were saying. These are some of the key findings from Ireland’s first comprehensive hearing loss survey conducted by Hidden Hearing, Ireland’s largest provider of hearing aids, for Hearing Awareness Week. The research also revealed that advice from family and friends was one of the key factors influencing those to seek treatment for their hearing loss with half of respondents (49%) saying that encouragement from family and friends influenced them to seek treatment.

Hearing Awareness Week is a national awareness campaign highlighting the issue of hearing loss, run by Hidden Hearing in association with the Irish Deaf Society. The research conducted with people affected by hearing loss and their families also revealed that four in ten (40%) said the fact that they had difficulty hearing the TV and radio was the key influence in them seeking treatment. Half of those surveyed (51%) said that their hearing loss made them less comfortable in groups and one in five (20%) said they avoided talking on the phone.

The research, which explored the psychological impact of hearing loss, revealed that 37% of respondents said they felt frustrated when they realized they had a problem with their hearing, one in three (33%) of respondents said that they felt embarrassed, one in five (19%) said they felt old and one in five (19%) said they felt isolated. However over one quarter of respondents waited more than five years to seek treatment, often prompted by loved ones, who believed the sufferers were in denial.

The Hearing Awareness Week campaign is focusing on family and friends as an important influence to encourage people to take action about their hearing loss and the campaign is making it easier for people to take action around their hearing loss. A mobile hearing test clinic is visiting some of Ireland’s cities and towns to provide free hearing tests and Hidden Hearing is also offering free hearing tests in its 63 clinics nationwide. A website has been set up to provide information and advice on hearing loss, as well as facilitating an online hearing test.

Legendary singer Daniel O’ Donnell and television health presenter Dr Nina Byrnes helped to launch Hearing Awareness Week in Dublin today. Daniel O’ Donnell played a key role in encouraging his mother to seek treatment for her hearing loss and speaking at the launch he said: “My mother suffered from quite a severe hearing impairment, so conversation became increasingly difficult for her and it also put quite a strain on the rest of the family.  But we encouraged her to seek treatment and now she lives a much improved lifestyle. There’s no need for people to miss out on life and I’d encourage all families and friends to talk to their loved ones about their hearing loss during Hearing Awareness Week.”

Discussing Hearing Awareness Week, Dr Nina Byrnes, Medical Consultant, Hidden Hearing said: “Hearing loss is one of the unspoken debilitating conditions, affecting people’s wellbeing in Ireland today. Hearing Awareness Week will encourage sufferers to take positive action to help themselves. Our research with hearing loss sufferers and their families reveals the negative impact that hearing loss can have psychologically and socially. But it also reveals that with treatment they can regain their confidence and improve their social interaction and relationships. Our message today is that hearing loss doesn’t have to hold you back in life, talk to your GP or take a free hearing test during Hearing Awareness Week”.

The research was conducted with 750 respondents from December to February this year at Hidden Hearing branches in conjunction with Behaviour & Attitudes.

Research conducted with hearing loss sufferers revealed that:

·         70% leave it more than a year to seek treatment for their hearing loss, with 28% leaving it more than five years to seek treatment.

·         44% said that their hearing loss made it difficult to socialize in public places, with one in four (26%) saying that their hearing loss was affecting their home life.

·         65% said that the first sign of their hearing loss was asking people to repeat themselves, 57% said turning up the TV / radio volume.

·         51% said that their hearing loss made them less comfortable in groups.

·         52% said that they pretended to hear what people were saying.

Research conducted with family and friends revealed that:

·         One in four (26%) said that their relative / friend was in denial about their hearing loss and that they had to convince them that they need to do something about it.

·         59% said that the volume of the TV was a continuous issue.

·         Half of respondents (48%) said that conversations with their family member / friend became frustrating, with 31% saying that they had to ‘act as their ears, always filling in the blanks for them’.

·         Four in ten (41%) said that their relative / friend wasn’t taking part in conversations like they used to, 28% said they were less interested in socializing.

·         One in four (23%) said that their relative / friend is more confident now after getting treatment. One in four (25%) said “our relationship has really improved, we can have a normal conversation now”.

Hearing Awareness Week is highlighting three easy ways to get a hearing test as part of Hearing Awareness Week.

1.      The Hidden Hearing Mobile Clinic Roadshow will visit:

Location Date Time
Belfast Cityside RetailPark Monday, 21st March 9.30am to 4.30pm
Dublin Northside Shopping Centre Tuesday, 22nd March 9.30am to 4.30pm
Dublin Liffey Valley Shopping Centre Wednesday, 23rd March 9.30am to 4.30pm
Dublin Liffey Valley Shopping Centre Thursday, 24th March 9.30am to 4.30pm
Cork Mahon Point Shopping Centre Friday, 25th March 9.30am to 4.30pm
Limerick Parkway Shopping Centre Saturday, 26th March 9.30am to 4.30pm
Galway Galway Shopping Centre Sunday, 27th March 9.30am to 4.30pm

2.      Online hearing test is available at .

3.      Check for your nearest clinic which is providing free hearing tests for Hearing Awareness Week.

Speaking today, Stephen Leddy, Managing Director, Hidden Hearing said: “This is the fifth year we have held Hearing Awareness Week and we believe it makes a real difference to people’s lives. Our research reveals the positive impact for those who received treatment for their hearing loss, the improvements in social interaction and in the relationships with family and friends. And this is something that we in Hidden Hearing also witness every day in our clinics around the country. Our overall message from Hearing Awareness Week 2011 is to talk to your family and friends about hearing loss, talk to your GP or avail of a free hearing test. Hearing loss doesn’t have to have a negative impact on your social life, your family life or your career. Address the issue and it doesn’t have to control your life.”