Partnership of the month: July 2019
Posted by Matt Sadler
Columnist, broadcaster and rock music journalist Garry Bushell on the difference sound support dog Ozzie makes to his life and why we should all be more proactive in raising awareness of hearing health...
After decades of exposure to loud music Garry Bushell is one of a growing number of people in the music industry suffering from hearing loss: “When I began my career in the 1970s and early 80s I wrote for the rock press – Sounds magazine – and was on the road with some of the loudest bands on the planet, including Motorhead and Iron Maiden.
“I also managed a couple of punk bands – I still perform in my own but now with ear-defenders firmly in place. Back in the day we took our hearing for granted. You don’t realise once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. We had no idea.
“We are much more aware now of the damage loud music and noisy machinery can cause, so it’s only sensible to educate people as young as possible and take every sensible measure to reduce the problem. I worry about young people wandering around with ear-phones plugged into their phones or iPods listening to music so loud you can hear it as you pass them.
“I first noticed I was losing my hearing about 18 years ago. Noise-induced hearing loss is such a gradual process that the effect was probably more obvious to people around me at first. The TV I watch for work became progressively louder, shaking walls all over the house.
“You find yourself missing chunks of conversations to begin with and guessing what’s been said. It certainly made it harder to do radio and TV discussion shows. I’ve had to turn down quite a few so hearing loss definitely had an impact on my career as a broadcast journalist.
“For several years I worked from home, filing my newspaper column and writing books. I started to isolate myself and for a while I really struggled. I tended to avoid people outside of the home, which was a strain as I’m naturally quite gregarious. Because hearing loss doesn’t show, some people aren’t sympathetic or understanding. Luckily for me, because of my wife’s work, it tends not to be a problem at home.”
Garry’s wife Tania is CEO of Bexley Deaf Centre and it was through her that he found out about Hearing Dogs for Deaf People: “My wife told me about Hearing Dogs and their great work. I approached the Charity to offer any assistance and as an unexpected consequence of that initial meeting we now have Ozzie my sound support dog.
“Oz alerts me to sounds around the home. He doesn’t have the confidence to work out and about and so doesn’t get to wear the uniform of a fully registered hearing dog, but he’s brilliant at home and a wonderful addition to our lives – mine in particular.
“Thanks to Oz, I never miss a delivery; he alerts me every time someone knocks at the door and I feel more confident with him around. Walking him also forces me to interact. Dog owners tend to be friendly people and conversations with others are a pleasant bonus.
“Without my hearing aids in, I find it hard to follow conversations especially with female voices – which, in a house full of women, can sometimes be a blessing! But it can also be frustrating, not just for me but for everyone around me. Tania always makes sure I can see her lips and speaks at a reasonable volume in a regular tempo – and comes down hard on me if I don’t wear my hearing aids. The positive is when I’m on stage and someone heckles, I see their lips move but I can’t hear them.
“Technology these days is incredible. There are hearing devices and high-tech ear plugs designed to protect the hearing of people who work in the music industry, without impacting on the quality or our enjoyment of the music. I only wish we’d had them in the 70s and 80s. There’s no hearing technology that can replicate what Oz gives me though. Having him has been a hugely positive experience – he’s definitely rock 'n' roll.”
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