STARRING in a TV advert for Hidden Hearing was the icing on the cake for Dundalk pensioner Harry Lee, who is preparing to celebrate his 80th birthday this August.
“It was the greatest experience of my life,” he says.
“A lovely team came down here three or four times to film me doing all the things I enjoy.
“There was a really positive reaction when it went on air. I had people coming up to me on the street and the local paper ran a picture of me too!”
The popular father-of-five is already a celebrity in Dundalk, having been involved in local radio for several years before setting up Louth Internet Radio (LIR).
But Harry, who has been a widower since his beloved wife Fronnie passed away at the age of just 57, admits his broadcasting career helped him remain in denial about his hearing loss.
“I spent so many hours a day wearing headphones, that I did not realise how much my everyday hearing had deteriorated.
“In fact, I used to walk past the Hidden Hearing clinic every day and think, ‘ah sure that’s nothing to do with me’.
“The truth is I started experiencing hearing difficulties as far back as the 1980s but I was in complete and utter denial,” admits Harry.
“I became an expert at sitting at hiding it. Swapping places in a restaurant so I would have my right ear next to the conversation, and so on.”
But things came to a head during a local dramatic performance four years ago when the theatre-loving grandfather had to confess: “I could not hear a thing!”
Harry decided enough was enough and he walked through the doors of his local Hidden Hearing clinic the next day.
“I was apprehensive until I was greeted by Sarah, the epitome of calmness and kindness, and she made me feel so welcome.
“The whole process was so thorough, yet painless, and I never felt under pressure to make a quick decision. In fact, I was encouraged to take my time and come back when I was ready.”
The bespoke hearing aid that Harry felt was right for him cost about €5,000, of which the State provided a grant of €1,000.
“The rest of the money came from the Credit Union,” says Harry.
“I remember a friend of mine saying, ‘sure, you could buy a car for €5,000.’ And I replied, ‘you drive a car to make your life more comfortable, well this hearing aid will make my life a lot more comfortable’ and it really did.”
Harry recalls the shock and joy of being able to hear properly for the first time in decades.
“Something as simple as birds singing – I had not heard that in a long, long time.
“But the sound of car horns blaring and the noise of traffic — that took some getting used to!”
Harry praises the “brilliant” service from Sarah, Dave and the team at Dundalk Hidden Hearing.
“I feel welcome there any time I need any help or advice — nothing is too much trouble for them and I am always greeted with a smile.”
Meanwhile, Harry is kept busy collating an oral history project at gatheringheritage.com where Dundalk locals recall the olden days.
And he is relishing his ability to listen to their fascinating memories.
“It’s so wonderful to have my hearing back.
“My children used to give out to me because the TV was on so loudly.
“But the other day, my youngest son Trevor, who is 40, was visiting and he told me to turn up the sound — it was on too low,” chuckles Harry.
“So that says it all, really!”
Check out Harrys TV advert for Hidden Hearing Below.