Charlene speaks out over life of hearing problems

Charlene Tilton
Charlene Tilton
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DANCING on Ice star and Dallas actress Charlene Tilton broke her silence on her long-term battle with hearing loss, as she launched a UK-wide search to find people who have triumphed despite their own hearing difficulties.

The actress revealed she has suffered from hearing loss since childhood, and now wears hearing aids in both ears after struggling constantly for more than four decades.

“As a little girl I had a lot of problems with my ears such as repeated infections. My mother couldn’t afford to take me to the doctor so eventually I ended up with painful perforated ear drums. They thought at one time that I would lose my hearing entirely, but some did return.

“But for years it has only been my family and close friends who have known about my hearing problem and how it has affected me. I tried hearing aids but they just didn;t work for my type of hearing loss.

Charlene recalls how her hearing loss affected her life while she was working on hit show Dallas: “I remember filming one scene where I had to walk in on-cue. I kept missing it because I just couldn’t hear. The director got annoyed, and just couldn’t believe I couldn’t hear what was going on. I didn’t want to say anything – I went home and cried, and I knew I had to do something.”

Over the years Charlene learnt how to lip-read, but it was while taking part in Dancing on Ice that she realised she needed to take action.

“When I first started training for Dancing on Ice I had to devise a hand signal system with Matt, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to hear his instructions above the music. It was difficult, and could have been dangerous once we started doing lifts and spins.”

Eventually she was fitted with digital hearing aids which made all the difference.

“After the fitting I could hear exactly what Matt was saying – I could even hear my blades on the ice – and I felt myself improve. It’s given me so much more confidence and I loved every minute of it.’

Charlene may have been voted off the reality TV show but she is now launching Specsavers The Sound Barrier Sound Awards an initiative aimed at celebrating achievement in people who are deaf or hard of hearing. It culminate in a live grand final in August, and for every entry Specsavers will donate £5 to charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. Hearing dogs help transform the lives of deaf people by alerting them to sounds and allowing them greater independence.

Charlene is a self-confessed dog lover and now runs a school for actors who suffer from hearing loss in LA. She knows how important it is to celebrate those who have shown bravery to achieve their goals. She added: “I have battled for more than four decades with this – constantly smiling and nodding along at social events when I don’t know what’s being said – so I can’t imagine how hard it is for people who are worse off.

“The courage people who are hard of hearing or deaf show is incredible, and helping such a brilliant charity while honouring these people is an added bonus.”

Breaking the sound barrier

One in six people in the UK have hearing problems

Anyone can nominate themselves, a friend or family member to enter the Sound Barrier Star Awards by visiting one of over 400 Specsavers hearing centres nationwide and picking up a nomination form, or downloading a form online at www.specsavers.co.uk/hearing

Entrants will be asked to explain why they deserve to win

The Sound Barrier Sound Awards culminate in a live grand final in August.