Call The Midwife actor Samantha Baines on why she loves her hearing aids

Reporter Lucy Kapasi and Call The Midwife actor Samantha Baines compare notes on hearing loss and deafness on World Hearing Day

Five years ago I finally started wearing hearing aids after years of struggling to catch what people were saying - not ideal for someone in the communications business!

A year later I started telling everyone about them and how they'd changed my life. Although hearing aids can't give you your lost hearing back, mine really help and in most situations I now feel I'm able to hear pretty well.

With modern headphones and the like, wearing something in or around your ears often doesn't attract a second glance.

But despite that, I still sense a stigma surrounding hearing aids that you don't get with wearing glasses.

Figures collated by YouGov for the Royal National Institute for Deaf people (RNID) suggest we don't prioritise the health of our ears and the RNID says that's putting our physical and mental health at risk.

Around half of us will have been to see the dentist and optician in the last year.

Yet in the UK only 6% of people questioned, who didn't already have a hearing loss diagnosis, had their hearing checked in the last 12 months.

For World Hearing Day, I met up with deaf comedian, actor and author Samantha Baines from Kent who I know loves her hearing aids as much as I do mine - at least she does now.

She's just written the book she says she couldn't find when she was first told she was deaf.

Sam has written the book she looked for when she first was told she needed a hearing aid. Credit: Shona Louise

Sam, who has starred in both The Crown and Call The Midwife, said: "It's definitely been a journey to love them. When I was first told I'd need them I cried in a shopping centre in London but now I love them.

"My book has a very long title which is 'Living with Hearing loss and Deafness' but also 'A Guide to Loving and Owning it' because I do feel I own it and love it now.

"But this is the book that I wanted when I found out I needed a hearing aid. I went to a library. And I couldn't really find the book I was looking for, which was hopefully something chatty with real personal experiences.

"And some facts and figures as well. I found lots of fact books and kind of education books, but not that kind of personal experience.

"Someone speaking to me about something that they'd been through themselves. So that's what I hope this book is and that's why I wrote it.

"There's so many excuses that you can make. I always thought I didn't like speaking to people on the phone because I have anxiety, which I take medication for, and I just get anxious about phone calls.

"Now looking back, I'm thinking, oh, maybe it's because I couldn't always hear what the other person was saying. And so it was a stressful thing for me.

"Turning the TV up, you can make the excuse, oh the actor's mumbling. And I'm an actor and I've been known to mumble. So there's lots of excuses we can give and also we don't talk about it a lot.

"Around the time I got my hearing aid I was doing period dramas and I did think: 'Can I wear a modern hearing aid?' But actually when I I started opening up about my deafness and having those conversations with the people I was working with, I've had a good reaction.

"People have been keen to put accessibility options still in place so I can still do what I love to do. Costumes, hair and makeup are amazing.

"And also I've even taken out my hearing aids to do my bit. And so rather than shouting action, I've maybe asked someone to wave to give me a cue and it's just a tiny thing but it makes such a big difference.

"You know, I just filmed a TV show for ITV set in the '80s, and luckily they had to do my hair really big so you couldn't see my hearing aids anyway. But everyone knew that I lip read and so they made sure that they were facing me when they spoke to me and you know, if I needed anything repeating, they were very happy among the crew to do that.

"So it took a lot of bravery to get there. But now I'm so glad I did, and I feel kind of much more welcomed by the industry."

The first hearing aids were quite cumbersome like this silver ear trumpet Credit: British Pathe

Sam and I also agreed that some patience is needed when getting used to hearing aids at the beginning.

"So often we see those videos those YouTube videos of a baby getting a hearing aid for the first time. They kind of smile and or cry or whatever it is," she said.

"And that can seem like a wonderful moment. But actually, you know that when you get your hearing aid for the first time, it's really overwhelming.

"So it might be very nice for the baby to hear more. But also they're probably very overwhelmed with this new world of sound. So I always say to people, stick with your hearing aid at the beginning because it can be a tough kind of integration to this world of sound and your brain needs to get used to it. So to begin with, it can feel really difficult.

"But then as your brain starts to get used to the new sounds, as you start wearing it for a little bit longer, every day you start to hear things that you'd sort of forgotten existed."

In Victorian times, people spent a lot of time trying to conceal hearing aids -that attitude of wanting to hide them still persists for some.

Sam enjoys wearing hearing aid jewellery which is becoming more popular Credit: ITV Central

But I'd noticed the younger generation are more inclined to show off their hearing aids, decorate them or choose one in a bright colour. I asked Sam if she thought the way we view hearing aids were changing.

"Really I think the Deaf community who use British Sign Language (BSL) has always been a proud strong community and really happy with their Deaf status and I feel through osmosis that is spreading on to us.

"There's this whole wave of colourful hearing aids, There's hearing aid jewellery. I'm wearing some today.

"And it not only keeps your hearing aids safe because with masks and things like that, hearing aids sometimes would ping off. It also makes it feel like you and adds to your style. Instead of it just being a medical device, it's now something that you can kind of show off and bring with it a bit of your personality."

So from using jewellery to conceal hearing aids to now wearing it to show them off we've come a long way.

Now deaf charities hope changing attitudes will mean more of us prioritise the health of our ears.

  • Hearing loss affects 12 million people in the UK.

  • You can get your hearing tested on the NHS or privately. Often your GP will send you to a high street optician or chemist for your check rather than the hospital.

  • All NHS hearing aids are now digital meaning they can be tailored to your individual needs.

  • Some NHS hearing aids are Bluetooth enabled so you can adjust them via your phone. It also means you can listen to music directly through your hearing aids.

  • For more help, advice and support go to RNID. They support people who are Deaf, or having hearing loss or tinnitus. You can even take a free hearing test on their website which takes just a couple of minutes.