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Jennie Bond: Former BBC Presenter on Finding Courage to Tackle Hearing Loss

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15/05/18

After a manic few weeks of making royal wedding films for American and Canadian TV, Jennie is particularly looking forward to this event because for the first time in years she knows she will be able to hear every word.

Seven years ago Jennie, 67, who lives in a five-acre valley overlooking the sea in Devon with her husband Jim, 78, noticed that her hearing was not what it used to be.

“At first I joked about it with family and friends but there comes a time when you start to think, ‘This is becoming a bit embarrassing’.

I’d find myself asking people to repeat themselves more and more. And I’d sometimes have ‘pretend conversations’, nodding along to show I could hear when in reality I was struggling to follow what was being said. It could be very draining.

“And it could be very embarrassing. If I was at a Windsor Castle reception or Buckingham Palace and I had my couple of minutes with the Queen or another member of the Royal Family then the last thing I’d want to be doing is saying ‘Pardon?’ or ‘What?’”

There are about 11 million people in the UK who suffer from hearing loss, which equates to around one in six of us, and more than 40 per cent of over-50s have some degree of hearing loss.

As with many people it took Jennie a long time to address the problem.

“It probably took five or six years which is awful as you wouldn’t leave your eyesight to deteriorate that long."

Since hearing deteriorates gradually many people are unaware they have a problem until there is significant hearing loss.

Experts predict that by 2030 adult-onset hearing loss will be so common it will cost the nation more than diabetes does.

About two million Britons use hearing aids while another four million would benefit from their use but don’t have them.

“I wish I’d done something about it sooner,” admits Jennie. “But I was probably in denial, refusing to accept the natural signs of age-related wear and tear. All of a sudden I realised I was lip-reading more than hearing.” Jennie's husband Jim also has hearing loss.

“It would drive our daughter Emma mad at times and she’d shout, ‘You’re both deaf as posts’. It certainly caused irritation and frustration for those around us.

“Simple things such as watching TV with my husband became intolerable as his hearing was worse than mine so the volume would be so loud I had to put earplugs in.”

Eventually Jennie had a test at a Hidden Hearing’s Exeter hearing centre and took Jim. She now has a hearing aid in her right ear and Jim has hearing aids too.

“You can’t even see mine,” she says.

“The first time I wore it I went to meet friends and it was lovely to feel included in the conversation. For my husband it was a complete revelation. It’s made me feel I can enjoy life to the fullest again."

“Hearing well is so important. I can’t imagine, for example, the birth of my little girl Emma and not being able to hear that first little cry. I can’t imagine being in the I’m A Celebrity jungle and not enjoying the sounds of nature all around.

“Or indeed at Buckingham Palace for the Golden Jubilee and not hearing Brian May twang out the national anthem from its roof.”

Recent research has shown that hearing loss can lead to an increased risk of other conditions including dementia, depression and even diabetes and heart health as people withdraw from social situations, become lonely and possibly depressed too.

Hearing loss can increase the risk of dementia by up to five times, although hearing aids may reduce these risks, according to the charity Action On Hearing Loss.

“My mother died last year,” says Jennie.

“She had advanced dementia for many years and I’m sure part of that acceleration was that she was losing her hearing.”

After nearly three decades of covering royal events Jennie was delighted to hear of the safe arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s third child Prince Louis on St George’s Day.

“Babies are always joyous events and after many years of reporting on Charles and Diana and their troubles it’s wonderful to see two happy marriages forging ahead, although it’s early days for Harry and Meghan,” she says.

“Harry says the stars were aligned for him and I really believe they are.”

Of Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding at Windsor Castle she says: “There will be 100,000 people there at least so I need to be on top of my game.

“And thank goodness I’ll be able to hear what everyone is saying because I’ll have my hearing aid in.”

Hidden Hearing offers free hearing tests and is supporting the Campaign for Better Hearing.

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