Annette Crosbie: I’m not cranky, just deaf! How the actress overcame her ‘bad mood’ with hearing aids
Becoming known as the wife of Victor Meldrew, Annette Crosbie is used to people thinking she is somewhat cranky.
Indeed, the Bafta-winning actress freely admits that, along with her great friend and One Foot In The Grave co-star, Richard Wilson, she has angered her fair share of people by outright ignoring their attempts to strike up a conversation.
What has never been revealed before, however, is that the 76-year-old isn’t deliberately snubbing anyone. She, quite simply, cannot hear them.
Great TV Artists: Annette Crosbie and her co-star Richard Wilson both discovered they were hearing impaired while filming One Foot In The Grave
“I’ve been pretty deaf in both ears for a decade now,” she says. “If I take out my hearing aids, I can’t hear my dogs barking right next to me.
“Unfortunately, this is often misinterpreted as rudeness or annoyance. I’m sure a lot of people I’ve unwittingly met in life have thought “what’s wrong with her?” because I didn’t really hear anything they said to me. Richard is exactly the same. He now wears hearing aids.
“We both went deaf while filming One Foot – we talked about it all the time – but it took him years to do anything. The typical man! ‘
There are more than four million people in Britain “in denial” of their hearing, says Roger Wicks of the Royal National Institute For Deaf People (RNID).
“Through our research, people have told us that they fear to admit hearing loss or deny it because they link it to the aging process.
“I hate the idea that there should be any stigma attached to wearing hearing aids”
“Surprisingly, it takes an average of another ten years for people to take action against hearing loss, even though it can lead to loss of confidence, isolation and impact on family life. The earlier a problem is addressed, the easier it is to adjust to wearing a hearing aid. ‘
The charity believes a national hearing screening program could help fight stigma and give people with the condition the hearing aids they need.
Annette refuses to feel stigmatized and is disarmingly candid about the first time she went for hearing aids. She remembers the specialist who suggested that Annette let her hair grow out to cover the devices.
“As if it was something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about!” I thought about it for a few seconds and said, “F *** it!” She sniffs.
So why has her hearing loss never been revealed before?
“Because nobody has ever asked me to talk about it,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “I’m speaking out now because I hate the idea that there should be a stigma attached to wearing hearing aids.
“The RNID is working hard to change that which is wonderful so anything I can do to raise awareness is not a problem at all.”
The RNID aims to make hearing aids less noticed than reading glasses. Still, Annette concedes that some people have an easier time bringing up the subject than others.
“As soon as my hearing started to go away, I did something. But most men aren’t like that – and Richard certainly wasn’t, ”she said with a mean laugh.
“A terrible fear for the male must be that they will lose control. This is why they don’t ask for directions and why they don’t ask questions. This is the way they are wired.
“We were filming One Foot when I first realized that my hearing was working. That was about 16 years ago and I was 60 at the time, ”she says.
“During a conversation around the table in the canteen, I kept saying, ‘I’m sorry? I realized I was losing track of conversations.
“I went to the specialist fairly quickly. It didn’t surprise me much that I went deaf because my father’s family had gone deaf later in life and as a child I remember having to scream to make myself heard.
“I was fitted with hearing aids and of course that helped me. I’ve had them for about a decade and during that time they’ve gotten a lot smaller and less intrusive. You can’t see I’m wearing them.
Annette at home with her greyhounds: Without her hearing aids, she can’t hear them bark
But many aspects of his life have changed. “Big and happy canteen lunches, which were part of my daily professional life, are now impossible for me because of the background noise,” she says.
Hearing aid users often find background noises bothersome because their devices are unable to filter out the sounds they want to hear – such as conversations – from noises they don’t hear, such as squealing tires and noise. clattering of dishes.
The social isolation caused by deafness is clearly hard on Annette. Now she eats alone or in very small groups, and restaurant visits are a thing of the past.
She admits to avoiding functions, such as the Baftas (during which she won the award for best actress in 1976) “like the plague”.
This is a rare sign of vulnerability on the part of a woman who refuses to feel sorry for herself.
Indeed, one of the reasons her hearing loss is not widely recognized is that she has continued to work at such a prolific rate. Over the past two years, she has starred in the Radio 4 comedy Old Harry’s Game and has made memorable appearances in Doctor Who and the BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit.
“Oh, it’s easy to work! She exclaims. “You’ve learned the lines so people know what you’re going to say and you know what they’re going to say. It must be the easiest job to do if you are deaf. The script is in front of you so you can relax.
“What really embarrasses people – and I wish I hadn’t – is the fact that I wear a hearing aid in each ear.
“On Little Dorrit a few years ago I kept the hearing aids because I knew it was going to be loud on set and the wig more or less covered them.
“But there was a scene where I was being pulled from behind and it seemed to go on forever.
“Being deaf is a real sensation at family gatherings, when there are children, grandchildren and in-laws that you really want to see, the conversation is moving away from you ‘
“The team kept playing with my wig until I finally realized what was going on and said, ‘Do you want me to take the hearing aids off? The relief was palpable.
“Everyone was too embarrassed to talk about it, which is a shame. The worst part are the public transport announcements on the Tannoy. II can’t make out a single word, so I have to ask strangers for help.
“And if you live in London, like me, this foreigner probably doesn’t speak English, and if he does, he’ll speak with an accent, which complicates things.” And you think, “I wish I hadn’t started this. ”
If that sounds a bit Meldrew-esque, it’s more an expression of frustration at one’s own limitations, rather than taunting the world at large.
Annette’s hearing loss, like most people’s, is age-related and irreversible. There could be a genetic link, so if your parents suffer from age-related hearing loss, you are more likely to be affected – and possibly at an earlier age than others.
Deafness itself is caused by the degeneration of microscopic hairs in the ear, which pick up sound waves, as well as cells in the inner ear.
The effects of the disease may be exacerbated by long-term exposure to loud noises, causing initial difficulty in distinguishing high-pitched sounds, followed by problems following speech patterns.
Annette admits that as her condition rapidly worsened, she retreated to the familiar surroundings of the house near Wimbledon Common in southwest London, where she raised her son Owen Griffiths, 39 years old, and her daughter Selina Griffiths, 40.
Long divorced from her husband, she shares her home with three beloved greyhounds.
“But when it really hits home, it’s at family gatherings, when there are kids, grandchildren and in-laws that you really want to see.
“The conversation is moving away from you because someone at the other end of the table is saying something, you don’t hear and you realize you’ve lost it.”
“There’s no point in asking because everyone is getting along and having a good time, so you step back and wait for the conversation to end.”
The challenges of hearing loss often lead to depression – and she admits that sometimes she is “fed up” with it. But she quickly berates herself. “It seems so ridiculous to sit there complaining that you have gone deaf when there are so many worse things that could go wrong with you.”
But she is determined to be candid about her deafness to help reduce the embarrassment associated with the disease.
“For some reason, a lot of so-called celebrities are reluctant to admit their hearing loss, but it’s incredibly common,” she concludes. “The only way to fight stigma is to be upfront and honest. If that sounds cranky to you, so be it.
For more information visit www.rnid.org.uk