The former Coronation Street actress talks about her battle with hearing loss. Grace Hammond reports.
Coronation Street legend Amanda Barrie has never paid any heed to age. The still glamorous 82-year-old has been on stage and TV since 1959, notching up roles in two Carry On films alongside her long-running stint on the Manchester-based soap. Last year, she also took part in BBC One’s travel series The Real Marigold Hotel, and also More 4’s The Baby Boomers Guide To Growing Old.
In January, she became one of the oldest housemates to take part in Celebrity Big Brother. She won over her housemates and viewers with her trademark humour, charm and outspokenness, but few were aware that Lancashire-born Barrie was struggling to hear, and dealing with grief after the death of her sister-in-law. The actress, who’s married to crime author Hilary Bonner explains how she copes.
“I’ve worn hearing aids since last summer to boost my hearing, because I have age-related hearing loss, but I discovered how much I needed them when I went into the Celebrity Big Brother house,” says Barrie. “I didn’t take them with me because they’re so tiny, I worried I might lose them, which was a big mistake. I couldn’t hear announcements on the outside tannoys from Big Brother telling us the tasks we had to do. It was a nightmare - I was so worried that my housemates would get punished because I couldn’t understand what I had to do. I kept asking Ann Widdecombe and Jess Impiazzi what he’d said.”
“I’m not at all embarrassed about having hearing aids. They barely show and they’re quite pretty, although I’d like them to find a way of attaching drop earrings to them to give them a bit of glamour and glitter. Now I tell people, ‘You don’t wait until your eyesight has gone to get them tested, and it should be the same with your hearing’. “
Barried was on the oldest people to take part in Celebrity Big Brother.“I didn’t feel like the oldest at the time. I don’t feel any age or any sex; I just feel I am who I am. I’ve been asked before to go on the show and refused, but this year they said they were looking for strong, intelligent women with views - so how could I refuse?
“Frankly, I believe working keeps your mind off dying; it’s like occupational therapy. I’ve worried about not waking up in the morning on-and-off since I was in my 20s as I’m an extremely anxious person, partly down to growing up during the war. You have to live minute-by-minute on a show like that, which was good for me.
“I feel privileged to still be asked to do jobs at 82. I love being thrown in with a bunch of people I’ve never met before and going through a scary situation with them. It’s a bit like a wartime experience - you really get to know people when they’re unsettled and a bit scared. Your entire free will is taken away; you don’t know what time it is or when you’ll sleep or wake up. Despite that, I’d do it again - it’s probably good to fend for yourself without your support network every so often.”