A lifetime of rock ‘n’ roll took its toll on the hearing and health of heavy metal singer and Saxon frontman Peter ‘Biff’ Byford. After suffering a heart attack in 2019, Biff vowed to put his health first, and that included taking better care of his hearing.
Biff visited his local Hidden Hearing clinic in York, and was fitted with top-of-the-range hearing aids by our hearing care expert Louise Robinson. Find out more about Biff’s hearing loss journey below, in his own words.
‘You what?’ – Biff’s experience with hearing loss
Since forming Saxon in 1977, we have released a new album every 18 months and have no plans of slowing down. Performing at gigs, playing our new songs in front of crowds and hearing them sing along is one of the greatest feelings in the world. That’s why I knew I had to get my hearing tested before our first gig back at Bloodstock Open Air Festival in August.
I discovered heavy metal music as a teenager, so I’ve been around high decibels and loud equipment for over 50 years. Back in the day at gigs, sound restrictions didn’t exist like they do now. Sometimes when performing we would put our heads right into the speakers and rock out.
I remember being at an autograph signing session and the fans kept asking questions and trying to talk to me, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying so I kept saying ‘yes’ over and over again. I knew my hearing was gradually getting worse, but I lived with it. I would be at the studio and my tinnitus would be awful, it sounded like someone was screaming in my ear.
Top Tips for Protecting Your Ears at Concerts
1. Use headphones, earplugs, or earmuffs
2. Take breaks from the noise
3. Stay at a safe distance from the speakers
4. Choose outdoor over indoor venues
5. Rest your ears during the week before
6. Visit a hearing professional if you notice signs of damage
Health is everything – heart attacks and hearing loss
Then one day my whole perspective on health changed. I had a heart attack before undergoing an emergency triple bypass surgery.
I was on my bike, I do a lot of biking and walking. Heart attacks aren’t like what you see in Hollywood films, I was breathless and in a lot of pain. My doctor sent me straight to the hospital where I had a heart bypass. It took me a long time to recover. I told myself after that moment that my health comes first.
My hearing problems were also affecting my personal life as well. Dinnertime with my family was especially hard. I found it difficult to keep up with conversation, so gradually after time I just stopped trying. I would sit there and become more detached. It was lonely at times.
The rock ‘n’ rollin’ continues…
In line with my new stance on life – ‘health comes first’– I went to my local Hidden Hearing clinic (in York), where I had a hearing test. The hearing care expert Louise was great – very knowledgeable about frequencies and how music can damage the ears, so we were able to have a proper conversation. I knew I was in safe hands. Since I was fitted with my hearing aids Oticon More, I have been very impressed, especially with the Bluetooth as I can stream music straight from device to ear.
Getting the aids is like turning back on the enjoyment button on life. I can hear things that I haven’t heard in a long time, like the certain notes of a guitar string. Instruments like bass guitar and drums no longer sound flat. Another bonus is my tinnitus has got so much better, it’s nowhere near as invasive as before. The aids have really helped reduce the severity with that.
Message to fellow rockers
Music is a form of escapism, when you’re at a gig it doesn’t matter what is going on in the world – all you care about is being there. It helps people feel alive. The problem is many people attend gigs regularly, sometimes twice a week or used to before the pandemic, and your ears really feel the impact of that. Especially back in the day when there were no sound restrictions in venues.
I know I’m not the only one who has experienced hearing loss as a result of attending shows! I would say to any fellow rockers or fans of ours if you’re in your 50s or 60s, go and get your ears tested. It has made such a big difference to my life; I hardly even notice the hearing aid.