EXCLUSIVE! Rula Lenska talks to the DeafBlog about her hearing loss
Posted Apr 07 2011 2:24pm
In an exclusive interview, we talk to Coronation Street star Rula Lenska about how her hearing loss has affected her life and career, and how she's rewarding those who have overcome their deafness and achieved something remarkable.
DB: How and when did you notice that your hearing was deteriorating?
RL: "Eight years ago, during a health check, my audiology tests showed that I had lost a percentage of the higher register of hearing in both my ears. Although I recognised that I listened to the TV loud, and often believed people were mumbling, I never realised the underlining reason was because I was experiencing hearing loss. I was too young for it to be age related, nor was it hereditary, and the doctors soon believed the condition to be brought on through ear infections picked up from coral diving."
DB: When did you decide to get hearing aids fitted?
RL: "About seven or eight years ago."
"I imagine that there are plenty of Deafblog readers who have striven to reach their goals, no matter what."
DB: What type of hearing aids do you wear?
RL: "I wear behind the ear hearing aids with a specific hypoallergenic shell and have had to experiment with the size of the vent. They’re open fitting and designed not to occlude the ear but It’s always important that the domes are perfectly matched to your ear for comfort and to avoid feedback. Always remember that it may take some time to become familiar with wearing them."
DB: How did it feel when they were switched on for the first time?
RL: "It was a revelation when I was fitted with my hearing aid - and a shock to hear how much I had been missing ordinary, everyday sounds, especially in the higher register. I was also surprised to discover that the hearing aid was virtually invisible."
DB: Are people surprised if you tell them about your hearing loss?
RL: "People react remarkably well, really. Initially I kept it quiet but when I did mention it to my fellow actors I was also astounded to find how many people, both in music and in the theatre, have profound hearing loss and manage perfectly well. In fact when I tell many people that I’m hard of hearing the reaction is often ‘so what?’"
DB: Do you feel like your hearing loss has held you back, or made you more determined?
RL: "It’s really only been an issue in the past decade and I made a conscious decision that it would not be an obstacle. Of course you learn a few tricks, I try to place myself in corners of rooms or learn to look at people’s lips as they talk but I think all in all, I’ve tried to carry on living a normal life."
"When I tell people I’m hard of hearing, the reaction is often ‘so what?’"
DB: Has your hearing loss impacted your career at all?
RL: "As an actress, my voice and hearing are a huge part of my life and, knowing what a cut throat business this can be, I did not want my problem to be blown out of proportion. I just had to concentrate more and, if I am honest, sometimes guess! My hearing loss has only been an issue in the last decade and actually most of the time, when working in the theatre, it really wasn’t a problem as actors have to project and enunciate."
DB: Do you think people are more reluctant to get their ears checked than their sight? If so, why do you think that is?
RL: "I do, I think there’s still a stigma attached to hearing loss because it’s an area that is not talked about enough and I also don’t think people realise how far advanced the technology really is. We’ve certainly moved on a long way from the boxes around the neck. For instance, you can now get a hearing aid that is hidden completely within your inner ear canal, so people can’t see you’re wearing it."
DB: What made you decide to speak out about your hearing loss now?
RL: "It’s been almost a decade since I was diagnosed with hearing loss and at the time I was hesitant to admit to it. There is still so much stigma attached and jokes told about a condition that really isn’t funny. It was a very difficult thing to come to terms with and even more difficult to admit to. But I’ve now come to see it as part of me as a person and I refuse to let it shape my life in a negative way. I want to talk about my hearing loss and, in doing so, encourage others to do the same."
DB: What do you hope to achieve by launching the Sound Barrier Star Awards?
RL: "I want to celebrate the achievements of those who understand that it takes bravery to cope with hearing loss and, although it takes adjustment, it does not signal the end of your life. I want to reward individuals who have overcome their hearing loss and achieved something remarkable."
"I want to reward individuals who have overcome their hearing loss and achieved something remarkable."
DB: And finally….what advice would you give to any DeafBlog readers who are thinking of entering the Sound Barrier Star Awards?
RL: "Log on to the website and tell us your story. I imagine that there are plenty of Deafblog readers who have striven to reach their goals, no matter what."
Rula Lenska is supporting The Sound Barrier Stars Awards in association with Specsavers hearing centres and Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.
Rula has appeared on television, stage and screen in Britain for over 30 years and is best known for her stunning flame-coloured hair, her elegant, aristocratic looks, her exotic voice, and of course, her talent! Read more about Rula at her official website.