My music career had impact on hearing

Dickie Rock: "My wife and children started to complain that I had the TV turned up too loud."

MY HEALTH EXPERIENCE: I didn’t really notice deterioration until a few years ago, relates DICKIE ROCK

I’M NOW in my seventh decade in the singing business and while I’ve been blessed with a really enjoyable music career, I suppose it was inevitable that it would eventually have an impact on my hearing.

I didn’t really notice when my hearing started to deteriorate until a few years ago when my wife and children started to complain that I had the TV turned up too loud. I was increasing the sound higher and higher and it was driving them mad, but when I reduced the sound to a level that was okay with them, I could hardly hear it at all.

My hearing wasn’t too much of a problem one on one, but if I was in a group of people, especially in a noisy restaurant or somewhere like that, I could not catch what the conversation was about.

I started performing when I was a teenager in amateur variety groups in the late 1950s before moving on to sing with the Miami Showband in the early 1960s when I was in my late teens.

From the very beginning, I was standing on stage with huge speakers either side of me, wailing guitars and loud drums right behind me. There was no awareness back then of the impact that this loud volume of noise could have on our hearing and no such thing as sound protection.

Once I realised I was having problems with my hearing, I walked into the Hidden Hearing shop in Terenure one day and got my hearing tested. I don’t understand why there is such a stigma around hearing loss in this country and why people are so reluctant to have their hearing tested. As far as I was concerned, this was a health problem, so it was important that I get it checked out.

I was assessed and had moulds taken of my ears to make hearing aids to custom fit. People still have an image of the big, old-fashioned hearing aids sticking out of your ears, but you can’t even see the new ones. You wouldn’t know I was wearing mine unless you were looking for them and they’re very comfortable – I don’t even know they’re there.

I would strongly advise anybody who has a problem with their hearing to get tested. Being able to hear properly again gives you a new lease of life. It’s fantastic to be able to hear people speak, to watch TV with no hassle and what’s really great is that you can turn the sound down on your hearing aid whenever you want to. If I’m in a very noisy restaurant, I just turn down my hearing aid so I can still hear the people at my table but cut out the background noise.

I’m feeling fantastic at the moment and singing very well. I still perform and lead a very active life. Like a lot of musicians these days, I wear in-ear monitors onstage which I can adjust to control the volume of the drums, piano or voice, etc.

These days, we spend a lot of the year in our home in Mijas on the south coast of Spain. My wife, Julie, has rheumatic arthritis and the heat and dry weather is good for the bones.

The health system in Spain is excellent too. There are no waiting lists, it’s cheaper to see a doctor, you can get into hospital very quickly if anything is wrong and you are looked after very well.

This is a very important factor for older people who are thinking about retiring there.

Hearing loss services, including hearing aids, can be provided free of charge to Irish medical card holders. For those without medical cards, there are also grants available for hearing aids through the Treatment Benefit Scheme operated by the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

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Source: Irish conversation with Michelle McDonagh

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