My old trouble

DILLIE KEANE on losing her hearing

I spent too much of my youth at too many rock 'n' roll concerts with my head in the bass speakers. I have generally abused my body over the years, with ear abuse at the top of the list. I've damaged the little hairs in my ears and have lost about 30 per cent of my hearing. But, then, I think I'm gradually closing down - I'm short-sighted and my sense of smell is going, too (although it has never really been in existence - I could be gassed quite easily).

I noticed my hearing was going about four or five years ago. I found it impossible to hear in a large rehearsal space, and if I couldn't see people's mouths, I couldn't work out what on earth they were saying. Adele [co-singer Adele Anderson] noticed, too, and I went to the hospital for billions of tests.

I now have a hearing aid. I wear it to concerts and the theatre and keep it in for listening to TV and the radio. But I don't wear it on stage, because all I hear then is my own voice incredibly loudly. Instead, I have two sound monitors, so I can hear what everyone else is doing. I also have to remind people at rehearsals not to wander away when we're singing. We have long sound checks and the extra monitors annoy Adele, but her annoyance is much lower on the problem scale than my deafness.

When I got my hearing aid, I could hear the gentle rustle of an ordinary breeze and birds twittering. It was wonderful. I spend a lot of time in the garden and the only thing I can't hear from there is the telephone, which I don't care about anyway.

I had Reiki - Japanese spiritual healing - the other day. When I told the practitioner I was going deaf, she asked, "What is it that you don't want to hear?" I was completely baffled by this question. I'm the daughter of a doctor and have been brought up to be deeply sceptical about alternative remedies.

Discovering I was going deaf frightened me, because music is my life. It's quite horrifying. My deafness is getting worse and there's nothing they can do. I'm getting involved in a charity called Deafblind UK. They say your charity giving reflects your greatest fears and I wouldn't be at all surprised if I get involved in more charities.

The positive aspect of going deaf is that there is an awful lot you don't have to listen to. It's marvellous when you can just shut off. When I mentally click off it's terribly quiet. If I go to parties, there's no point putting the hearing aid in, because then all I get is loud confusion, not soft confusion. But it's a marvellous excuse - if somebody is boring you, you can say you can't hear because it's a noisy corner and then wander off somewhere else.

Interview by Cayte Williams

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