Silence of the Lamb – EastEnders actor on his battle with hearing loss

An act of kindess publicising the plight of some of the world’s poorest children has led to popular TV actor Larry Lamb loosing his ability to hear in one ear.

The EastEnders and Gavin and Stacy star was in Senegal for a week with a charity but stopped taking his malaria pills on his return because he felt fine, despite being medically advised he should take them for a further eight days.  Three days after his return he developed an unexplained fever thought to be malaria.















Larry Lamb


Larry was seriously ill for several weeks and at one point thought he was going to die.  He had to be hospitalised and put on a drip. Halfway through his illness, he started to notice whining noises in his right ear and was referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist.

The specialist diagnosed an infection of the cochlear nerve in the inner ear, which affected his hearing so badly that he is now completely deaf in his right ear.

“Losing my hearing hs been a nightmare and a real shock to the system, a classic case of not appreciating what you have until it’s gone.  I have gone from having good hearing in both ears to only having no hearing in one ear practically overnight, it has been very frustrating.  To add to that I was getting a horribly staiffback and neck from constantly leaning to try to hear people.  As an actor, hearing is so important, so rehearsing and filming was beginning toget very difficult indeed.”

Larry, father of DJ George Lamb, says he now appreciates how isolating it is for people with hearing loss.

“If I am sitting with two or three friends it is almost impossible for me to follow the conversation, ” he says.

Afte a few weeks Larry sought the help of hearing aid audiocologist Mark Edgar, at Specsavers in Edgware Road, London.  Mark confirmed that the malaria Larry had contracted had damaged a large number of hair cells in his inner ear – these are the ones that send electrical signals to the cochlear nerve.  The result is similar to age-related hearing loss but much more sudden and profound and means Larry can’t hear higher frequencies, especially women and children’s voices, and most consonants.

Everyone’s hearing will deteriorate at some stage – with age the hair cells in the inner ear lose their efficiency, affecting what we hear.  Larry had started to lose his hearing before his trip to Senegal but unfortunately contracting malaria led to an acceleration of this natural process.

This type of sudden loss is quite unsual and the infection that Larry contrcted damaged his hearing so much that he has been left with permenant damage and complete loss of hearing in his right ear.  Unfortunately, the ears work together and unless both are working perfectly it can be difficult to hear over background noise as one ear works to drown out the background while the other works to pick up the sound you want to hear.

Larry’s sense of localisation – where a sound is coming from – is also impaired, making crossing the road potentially dangerous, explains Mark Edgar of Specsavers.

Colin has since fitted Larry with a state-of-the-art CROS System hearing aid.  This is very discreet, the size of a jelly bean, and sends the sounds he should be hearing in his right ear via “Bluetooth” technology to a device worn in his left ear.

“This haring aid has made a huge difference to my life and its an enormous relief to be able to hear again.  I can’t belive how discreet it is, so much so that people around me don’t realise I’m wearing a hearing aid and I even forget its there.

“I am so grateful to Specsavers for giving me back my hearing and I would certainly advise everyone to have regular hearing tests, after all, they are free so what’s stopping you?”

Corrie star William Roache talks about life and hearing loss


Elixir was at the Sound Barrier Awards last week to see Corrie favourite William Roache OBE speak about hearing loss and pay tribute to the worthy winner of the title of Specsavers ‘Sound Barrier Star’.

The event, also sponsored by Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, celebrates people with some form of hearing loss who have not let their condition stand in their way.

Before introducing each of the nominees William, better known for his role as Corrie favourite Ken Barlow, said a few words about his partial hearing loss and the surprising fact that only 10% of people will ever have a hearing test, in comparison with the 80% who get their eyes tested.

The ‘Sound Barrier Star’, Roger Hewitt, from Bromley, accepted his prize with a very humorous and humbling speech. He has been deaf since the age of 6 as a result of contracting meningitis and now is an ambassador, volunteer and consultant for the cause. It certainly seems like he has never let his deafness affect his life and is an example for us all.

We caught up with William for a quick chat afterwards. He told us that he suffered some ear damage from a mortar bomb as a 21 year old in the army; his hearing came back after 3 weeks but he never realised the extent of the damage until recently. After having a hearing test he was told that he had 50% hearing loss. William confided that he has hearing aids but he doesn’t use them very often at all. He doesn’t feel like his hearing loss is a barrier in any way to his life.

William is lucky to have enjoyed enviable longevity onscreen as Ken Barlow; only Don Hastings, who plays Bob Hughes on US show ‘As The World Turns’, has dedicated a longer service to Soap-dom. William confirmed that he loves playing Ken and is very proud to still be in Corrie after all these years. It’s a long day on set – 8am to 7pm – but he hasn’t got fed up of it yet!

The evolution of Corrie into the nation’s longest running soap is something which would have surprised the creators of the programme 50 years ago: William remarked that the name of ‘soap’ was something which Coronation Street had tried to avoid for many years – having marketed themselves as a cutting-edge drama series to begin with.

We concluded that one of the refreshing things about soaps, or cutting edge drama series (!), is that they do resemble ordinary people’s lives in some way – you are allowed to get older on screen and the more senior characters become something of an institution rather than fading into the background.  

To learn more about Specsavers hearing centres, or to book a hearing test, please visit


Free holiday ear protectors from Specsavers


London: Are you fed up with ear painwhen a plane takes off or lands? That’s the sound of permanent damage to your hearing.

Specsavers hearing centres has joined with Elxir to offer ten pairs of hearing protectors worth £15 each.The instant-fit hearing protectors are small and discreet and will protect your ears from the pressure of taking off, landing and background engine noise.

The special acoustic filters in the FlyFit earplugs protect you against excessive ambient noise. During a flight, the unpleasant pressure on the eardrum during landing and takeoff is carefully regulated.

Specsavers also offers custom fit hearing protectors, suited to those regularly working in noisy environments. For more information on these or to locate your nearest Specsavers hearing centre, please visit call 0808 143 1143.

For your chance to win a set of FlyFit Hearing Protectors please answer the following question, Which famous optical chain also offers a hearing service?

Please email your answer to us at with “Ear” in the header and your name and address by 31 May 2009. Please note that no cash equivalent is offered and the Editor’s decision is fina.

About Specsavers
• Specsavers was founded by Doug and Dame Mary Perkins in 1984 and is now the largest privately owned opticians in the world
• The couple still run the company, along with their three children. Their eldest son John is joint managing director
• Specsavers has more than 1,060 stores throughout the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Spain and Australia
• Annual turnover for the Specsavers Group is forecast to reach a record £1.05 billion for the financial year 2008/9
• The group plans to continue its successful international expansion by opening stores in New Zealand
• Specsavers optical stores and hearing centres are owned and run by joint venture or franchise partners.
• Specsavers employs more than 26,000 staff
• Specsavers was voted Britain’s most trusted brand of opticians for the seventh year running by Reader’s Digest in 2008
• One in three people who wear glasses in the UK buy them from Specsavers Opticians – eight and a half million glasses were sold during 2007
• Specsavers is the largest retail provider of home delivery contact lenses in Europe and one of the top two retail suppliers of continuous wear lenses in the world
• Specsavers is now the largest retail dispenser of digital hearing aids in the UK and will offer a hearing service from more than 400 locations by the end of 2008
• Specsavers supports numerous optical and hearing charities, including Diabetes UK, for whom they have raised more than £250,000 to fund research into diabetic retinopathy
• Since 2003 a quarter of a million glasses have been collected and recycled by Specsavers stores for Vision Aid Overseas for use in developing countries


Helpful advice on hearing problems from Deafness Research


London: Help is at hand for the many people who suffer painful and debilitating ear complaints, many of which are avoidable with better ear hygiene and prompt medical attention, according to Deafness Research UK who have recently published a handy leaflet called ‘Trouble With Your Ears?’

One in ten UK people who are registered with a surgery will visit their GP each year with an ear problem and it is this group initially being targeted through the wide distribution of the leaflet to surgeries throughout the UK.

Extra copies are available from Deafness Research UK. To receive free samples, call the freephone helpline on 0808 808 2222, or e-mail < ahref="mailto:""> You can also access a wide range of information about deafness, ear problems and tinnitus from their website

Vivienne Michael, Chief Executive of Deafness Research UK, pictured, said: ” ‘Trouble With Your Ears?’ offers practical help and advice to patients to ensure they get the best possible treatment for ear infections, earwax or other ear problems that can cause pain and discomfort. The leaflet includes ‘top 10 tips’ for better ear health.

“There is evidence to suggest that ear problems are not always recognised by general practitioners and can be left untreated. In these cases, or where treatment is unsuitable, such as the inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics, a mild condition can become more serious.

“It is also common for elderly people attending hospital for a hearing aid, to be found to have factors other than old age contributing to their hearing loss. The fitting of a hearing aid can often be delayed while a patient is referred back to their GP for earwax removal.

“The more aware patients are of the treatments they should expect, the better the prospects for their recovery,” adds Vivienne Michael. “There is also plenty of self help information in ‘Trouble With Your Ears?’ and tips to avoid ear problems in the first place.

“The Department of Health is committed to helping patients to help themselves, yet few primary care trusts have yet adopted a ‘self care’ strategy. Applied to the treatment of ear complaints, the burden on GPs could be greatly reduced and absence from work because of an ear problem could be halved. However, without good quality information, more harm than good can be done as is evident from the number of patients who present with problems caused by trying to clean out their ears with a cotton bud!

“Through the ‘Trouble With your Ears?’ leaflet, we aim to raise awareness of ear problems and give them more prominence on the public health agenda”, concludes Vivienne Michael.

Deafness Research UK is the country’s only charity dedicated to finding new cures, treatments and technologies for the deaf, hard of hearing and other hearing impaired people including tinnitus sufferers.


Vision & Hearing Loss

Age-related eye diseases — macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma — affect millions of people aged over 40. But the numbers are shooting up as we live longer.

Foods containing high levels of antioxidants are thought to be helpful in reducing vision loss, and these should be taken before the age of 40.

Deterioration accelerates in smokers.Regular eye exams should include screening for glaucoma.

The incidence of hearing loss increases with age. Twenty-nine percent of those with hearing loss are 45-65; 43% of those with hearing loss are 65 or older.

Hearing loss takes a toll on the quality of life and can lead to depression and withdrawal from social activities. Although hearing aids can help, only one out of four people use them.

High-frequency hearing loss is common in old age and made worse by a lifestyle that includes exposure to loud sounds whether its a concert or from Walkmans, iPods etc.