STAR of TV’s Dallas and Dancing on Ice CHARLENE TILTON explains why finally getting a hearing aid has completely changed her life.

Charlene Tilton faced her hearing problem when she started training for Dancing On Ice

WHEN celebrities sign up for a reality show and gush about their amazing “journey” it is often no more than a quick dash from one television project to another. But when pocket dynamo Charlene Tilton joined Dancing On Ice it really  was a life-changing experience.“Two years ago I would have been happy to sit on the couch and do something unhealthy such as smoke a cigarette or have a drink but it completely changed my outlook.”

HOWEVER as soon as she took to the ice for preliminary training in Los Angeles with partner Matt Gonzalez, Charlene realised she had taken on a bigger challenge than she thought. It was impossible to hide the hearing loss that she had kept secret throughout her acting career. She explains: “As a child I had chronic ear infections. I was a bit of a sickly kid.” But her mother could not always afford to take Charlene to a doctor. “She was a single mum and it was hard. She just didn’t have the money.”

Charlene had just turned eight when she had a particularly nasty infection. “I can remember the pain like it was yesterday. It was excruciating. Then one morning when I lifted my head off the pillow I saw it was covered in blood.” Her mother rushed her to a children’s hospital, the only option for Americans with no money and no health insurance. “My eardrums were perforated and it left me with hearing loss. I knew I was hard of hearing but it was just something I lived with. “When I worked on Dallas I had to go to black-tie events for work and I would just smile and say ‘Yes’ to whatever anyone was saying.

“It was always frustrating that I could never hear people’s names, especially names I needed to know such as network executives.”

It was only after a disastrous day of filming when she kept missing her cue for a scene with Larry Hagman who played JR and Patrick Duffy who played Bobby that she was forced to admit to the director and her co-stars that she could not hear the line that was supposed to signal her entrance.

“At the time Ronald Reagan had just got a hearing aid and I knew I had to do something.” The devices were much less sophisticated in those days and only worked by amplifying sounds rather than making them clearer. Eventually she gave up with the cumbersome earpiece and went back to nodding, smiling and saying “Yes” and “Pardon”.Ironically when it comes to skating, silence is golden. Dancing On Ice trainer Karen Barber explained to viewers that it is a sign you are well balanced and gliding across the ice. However Charlene was struggling to hear her partner’s instructions and her music let alone pick up the subtleties of her skating sounds.

“I had to devise a hand signal system with Matt,” she says. “It was difficult and could have been dangerous once we started doing lifts and spins.” So when she came to London for the show Charlene decided to try a hearing aid again and was amazed at how the technology had improved.

She has now gone from hiding her disability to being happy to share her experience in the hope that it will encourage others to realise that hearing loss doesn’t have to hold you back.

If you have any questions about hearing loss or hearing aids contact Hidden Hearing.

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