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Osher Günsberg has opened up about a health issue he’s been dealing with since he was a teenager, that used to leave him feeling “alone in a room full of people”.
He regularly graces our television screens as the host of The Bachelor franchise and The Masked Singer, but the seasoned presenter actually suffers from hearing loss and says not only can it have a negative affect on his relationships, but it also often left him feeling “isolated”.
“You miss the nuances of life,” he says in an interview with Yahoo Lifestyle.
“Tone of voice - especially in a relationship - are so vital. It’s not just the word that your partner says, it’s the upward or downward inflection or the lilt in a vowel, that can give you so many clues as to what’s actually going on in a situation.
“And you don’t want to miss that stuff because ultimately you end up having to work so hard just to try and be connected in the moment.”
The 46-year-old is an ambassador for Connect Hearing, who recently conducted research that revealed four out of ten Australians feel the most unheard in their own homes.
Osher’s hearing loss put a strain on his relationship
And as Osher discovered, that can put a strain on any relationship, such as with wife Audrey Griffin.
“When I started living with Audrey and [step-daughter] Georgia, even in an apartment, it became quite clear that I just couldn’t hear them if I was in another room,” he tells us.
“Every time I was saying ‘what’ or ‘huh’ it was throwing a little piece of sandpaper between our emotional connection, as we were trying to get to know each other and live together as this new blended family.
“I became annoying to communicate with and I would become annoyed so it would change our dynamic and our relationship.”
But all that changed when he finally got hearing aids - something he admits he put off for way too long.
Hearing aids were ‘life-changing’
“I’m the classic case, even though I knew I needed them, I didn’t get them,” Osher says.
“I had been living alone before [meeting Audrey], so no one had to know that I had the TV as loud as I did or that I watched it with subtitles. No one had to know that I would always take phone calls using headphones because I could make it louder, or how loud I had my car stereo.
“It was once I met Audrey that I knew I had to do it. And it was life-changing once I did.”
Osher, who has previously opened up about his battle with mental health issues, says he hadn’t even realised how much his hearing loss, which is coupled with his tinnitus [“the loudest noise I can ever hear in a room”] as well, was leaving him feeling isolated in social situations.
“Before I got my hearing aids, I didn’t know why I was not feeling great about going out to dinner with people,” he explains.
“But it was because I would ultimately end up just sitting at a restaurant and not hear what anyone was saying. I would feel quite isolated and I would just not say anything.
“So I just didn’t want to go out because I don’t want to sit alone in a room full of people.”
Still some challenges
Over time, Osher says he developed a handful of coping mechanisms like lip reading, and asking people to spell their names, but everything changed once he finally got his hearing aids.
Although, as with anything there are still some challenges - like “remembering to wear them”.
“This week I went for a walk for bread and I didn’t wear them and someone said hello to me and then Audrey has to compensate the poor thing,” he says.
“She will have to tell the person ‘he’s not wearing his hearing aids’ - so if I forget to wear them I put my wife in the unenviable position of having to apologise for me because I’ve literally just blanked someone in the street.”
Luckily, he says there have been less challenges when it comes to his work life and his time on set, although there have apparently still been “way too many” awkward moments “to even list”.
“It’s a different story at work,” Osher explains. “I wear an ear piece so I can hear my director but I also have all the microphones on set put into my ear so it’s like I’m wearing a hearing aid anyway.
“My floor manager generally uses hand signals and on a set there isn’t a lot of background noise to compete with so I’m usually ok.”
Osher’s industrial hearing loss predominantly stems from his time around live music. He worked as a roadie and played in a band and says while he “tried to look after” his ears by wearing earplugs, it didn’t do any good.
Particularly once he started working on radio and had the “unchecked ability to amplify my headphones as the night went on” things only got worse, until years later he realised he was turning his car stereo up louder than what he used to be able to tolerate.
“My life has been around loud music,” he says. “And you know, I was playing in a band, I had long hair, life was great.”
‘Take care of your hearing’
Until he realised his hearing loss was “affecting my ability to understand speech” after a wake up call where he was signing autographs for fans and wasn’t able to hear the letter ‘s’ anymore.
Given his own experience, Osher hopes people will learn to take better care of their hearing, and include regular hearing checks in your routine.
“Try and understand that it’s permanent nerve damage and it can never ever come back. Once it’s gone it’s gone for life,” he says.
“You wouldn’t stare into the sun because you want to live out the rest of your life having eyes that work well, so take the same care of your ears.”
He also stresses that hearing loss is more than just saying ‘huh’ or ‘what’.
“It can have lasting affects on not only your cognitive ability but also on your relationships and the people you care about.
“And what are you missing out on then is the emotional connection with people - it’s not just words.
“It’s asking someone about their day, and hearing the response and the nuances that tell you maybe everything wasn’t so ‘great’, and you being able to engage in that moment.
“I have to work so hard now to fill in gaps, so try not to do that to yourself.”
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