Belfast Telegraph

Ben Cohen: Tinnitus can drive people ‘to do the unthinkable’

The Strictly Come Dancing contestant and former England rugby star suffers from severe hearing loss.

Ben Cohen (Ian West/PA)
Ben Cohen (Ian West/PA)

By Craig Simpson, PA

Ben Cohen has said hearing loss and “screaming” tinnitus can drive some people to “do the unthinkable”.

The former England rugby star and 2013 Strictly Come Dancing contestant has said the constant noise caused by the condition can drive some people “crazy”.

Cohen said he could not hear the music during his time on Strictly, and he longs for the “luxury” of hearing birds chirping.

The sports star and activist has said simple acts like going out for a meal with friends or making a phone call are dictated by his hearing loss.

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Ben Cohen with Kristina Rihanoff on Strictly (John Stillwell/PA)

He said: “I have a loud screaming in my ears.

“Tinnitus can drive people crazy. To the point of doing the unthinkable sometimes. People find tinnitus very difficult to cope with.

“I miss a lot. I misunderstand a lot. That can become very frustrating. You are always continuously playing catch-up.”

Cohen said he does not hear music as other people do, and songs can be transformed when he uses hearing aids.

He added that basic acts like being able to hear jokes when out with friends become a challenge, adding: “It does affect you, but you’ve still got live life at the same time.

“I’m profoundly deaf, I’ve got 46% hearing and I’ve got tinnitus. I do miss a lot.

“I’d love to be able to sit in a quiet room and hear the birds chirping outside. But I don’t have that luxury.

“You pick the time of day you go out. If you go to a restaurant, you’ve got to try and go to pick a quiet place before it gets too busy, gets too loud.

“You can’t hear the conversation, you laugh when everybody else laughs.”

He said because he was oblivious to the music on Strictly, he was unable to lead his partner.

“When I did Strictly I couldn’t hear the beats of the music. Kristina led me, I couldn’t lead because I couldn’t hear the music.

“The last dance I did I could hear the beat and got voted out, so that says a lot, doesn’t it.”

Cohen has welcomed advances in technology to aid those with hearing loss, and backed a new mobile network targeted at those isolated by deafness.

He has thrown his support behind Audacious, which uses technology to personalise calls to people’s hearing needs.

He said: “I’m a role model, whether I like it or not. I have to use that for good. My hearing’s only going to get worse, I need to protect it, understand what I can do with it, and use technology to help.”

Audacious offers a free hearing test online.

PA

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