Daniel and Majella O’Donnell are at the fore of a campaign which aims to highlight the knock-on physical and psychological impacts of untreated hearing loss.
The duo teamed up with Hidden Hearing in the hopes of encouraging people aged 50 plus to look after their ears as the issue of hearing loss is personal to them, especially Majella who herself suffers from impaired hearing due to repeated ear infections.
According to the National Campaign for Better Hearing, up to 1 in 5 Irish adults suffer from at least a mild degree of hearing loss. They say that although early detection cannot prevent hearing loss, it can help some of the knock-on effects.
“I suffered with a lot of ear infections when I was young, which ended up actually damaging my eardrums. I have about a 70 per cent loss in this [left] ear and about 30 per cent in this ear. So I wear hearing aids, and the difference it made to my life was amazing,” she told RTÉ.
Majella says that she began noticing her hearing loss while in the boardroom at her job, where she would struggle to take part in discussions when several people spoke at once. At first she thought that perhaps they were speaking too fast or were mumbling, but she soon realised that she had to read people’s lips and facial expressions in order to converse.
“It was probably in my late twenties, early thirties that I really noticed it,” she said.
She also shared a funny story of how while on a date at the cinema, her suitor refused to go out with her again as he thought she was staring at another boy – when really she had been angling her “good ear” towards the screen to hear what was going on!
Daniel added that his late mother Julia also struggled with impaired hearing, and that a hearing aid made the world of difference to her.
“It brought her back into the swing of things… She was amazed when she got the hearing aid. We turned the television up to where she would have it and she said, ‘I didn’t have the TV up that loud!'”
He says that there should be no shame in wearing a hearing aid, and compares it to wearing glasses.
“The strange thing about it is that we wear glasses all the time, and I think the reason for that is that you can’t manage without the glasses.
“If you can’t see something, you can’t see something. If you can’t hear, you turn up the sound on the television or the radio, or you ask people to repeat and you do compensate.
“I think if you just realise the benefit and it doesn’t really matter – so what if you have a hearing aid?”
The Kincasslagh crooner says that thankfully he has no hearing damage himself after the countless concerts he has staged over the years, but says that reduced hearing is something that affects many in the music business.
“In the early days, certainly, the sound onstage was loud, but now I wouldn’t be as loud as the pop or rock!
“Still, it was loud – there’d be a fair din in your head on the way home after a dance!”