SAXON frontman Biff Byford spoke about his hearing loss, saying wearing hearing aids after more than 40 years of exposure to loud music has greatly improved his quality of life.
“Since forming SAXON in 1977, we’ve released a new album every 18 months and have no plans to slow down. Going to concerts, playing our new songs in front of a crowd and hearing them sing along is one of the best feelings in the world. That’s why I knew I had to get my hearing tested before our first performance at the Bloodstock Open Air festival in August.
I discovered heavy metal music as a teenager, so I’ve been side by side with high decibels and loud equipment for over 50 years. In those days, there weren’t the same restrictions on sound power at concerts as there are now. Sometimes we’d stick our heads right into the speakers during a show and rock out.
I remember at the autograph session the fans would ask questions and try to talk to me, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying, so I kept saying “yes” over and over again. I knew my hearing was slowly deteriorating, but I lived with it. I would be in the studio and my tinnitus would be terrible, it felt like someone was screaming in my ear. Some days it was better, but the ringing remained.
Then, one day, my whole outlook on health changed. I had a heart attack, after which I had emergency triple bypass surgery.
I rode my bike. I do a lot of biking and walking. Heart attacks are not like the ones you see in Hollywood movies: I was out of breath and in a lot of pain. My doctor sent me straight to the hospital, where I had heart bypass surgery. It took me a long time to recover. After that point, I told myself that my health came first.
The hearing problems were also affecting my personal life. Dinners with my family were especially difficult. It was hard for me to keep up a conversation, so gradually I just stopped trying. I sat and became more detached. It was lonely at times.
In keeping with my new “Health First” attitude in life, I went to the Hidden Hearing Center, which specializes in hearing aids, where I had my hearing checked. The audiologist was wonderful, very knowledgeable about frequencies and how music can damage ears, so we were able to have a normal conversation. I knew I was in good hands.
After being fitted with the Oticon More hearing aids, I was very impressed, especially with the Bluetooth technology as I can listen to music directly from the device to my ear. Getting the hearing aids is like turning on the enjoyment button of life. I can hear things I haven’t heard in a long time, like certain guitar string tones, and instruments like base guitar and drums no longer sound flat. Another bonus is that my tinnitus is much better, it’s no longer as obtrusive as it used to be. The instruments have really helped reduce its severity.
Music is a form of escapism, and when you’re at a concert, it doesn’t matter what’s going on in the world. All you care about is that you’re there. It makes people feel alive. The problem is that a lot of people go to concerts regularly, sometimes twice a week, or attended before the pandemic, and your ears are seriously affected. Especially in the days when there were no restrictions on sound in concert halls. I know I’m not the only one who has experienced hearing loss as a result of attending concerts! I would tell all fellow rockers or our fans, if you are over 50 or 60, go get your hearing checked. It’s changed my life so much; I almost don’t notice the hearing aids.”