Rick Astley on hearing loss and why it shouldn’t be embarrassing to wear hearing aids

In the 1980s, young people related to a youthful Rick Astley as he belted out hit tracks like Never Gonna Give You Up and Together Forever.

Now, more than 30 years after his pop heyday, the mid-life generation that enjoyed Astley’s hits back in the day can once again relate to their former idol, as the now 57-year-old reveals he has mild hearing loss, just like many other people of his age and older, and has to wear hearing aids.

Astley, whose debut single Never Gonna Give You Up reached number one in the UK in 1987, has only just had his hearing loss confirmed with a test, and says: “This is extremely new to me at the moment.

“I’m 57, and anyone my age, truth be told, is probably going to have some hearing loss, unless they’re very unusual. I’ve been noticing I’ve got some hearing loss over the last few years, because of being around loud music and being in studios a lot of the time.

“I do think that’s been part of it, but I also think it’s just age, to be honest.”

The musician, who’s been married to Danish film producer Lene Bausager for 20 years and shares daughter Emilie with, explains that he can still hear most things, “but it’s just if it’s really noisy, and there’s someone at the end of the table, I’m not hearing what they say. I probably have the TV on a bit louder than our daughter does as well, which she moans at occasionally.”

Nevertheless, Astley now has hearing aids, although he admits: “I only got them a week or so ago, and I’m just not in the habit of wearing them yet. But I think I’m probably going to just always have them with me, and at the appropriate moment I’ll use them, and obviously, if my hearing gets worse, then I’m going to have to wear them full stop.”

Astley says he as no problem with wearing hearing aids but admits there’s still a stigma attached to them.

“There’s a stigma, there’s no doubt about it,” he says ruefully. “I think hearing aids are definitely a thing like, you’re getting on a bit because you can’t hear – which is just a fact of life. It shouldn’t be anything people are embarrassed about. These days, they’re semi-invisible – you don’t even realise someone’s wearing them.

“But people definitely have a bit of a thing about it. Hearing is as fundamental as vision, so why do we treat wearing hearing aids any differently to wearing glasses? The more people wear them and get used to it, that will change.”

As well as his age and years of exposure to loud music, Astley thinks playing drums in bands when he first started out may also have contributed to his hearing problems.

“I don’t think drums are good for anybody from a hearing point of view,” he admits, pointing out that he has a few friends whose children have taken up drumming, and he always makes sure they protect their ears. “Just put some headphones on, do anything, even if you’ve only got toilet paper, just stick that in your ears – focus on having a bit of protection for your hearing,” he advises.

“I don’t ever go to a gig now without bringing some ear protection, which I know sounds a bit boring – but it isn’t.”

Astley’s hearing loss was detected in a very recent test, yet Specsavers research has revealed over half (56%) of people admitted they’d never had their hearing tested. Yet, like Astley, half of people find conversations with background noise difficult, and over a quarter (28%) say they can’t hear the TV or radio properly – common early signs of hearing loss.

As part of a Specsavers campaign to highlight how hearing loss can often be ignored for years and encourage people to take action if they notice any changes, Astley has re-recorded Never Gonna Give You Up – which the research found is one of the nation’s top 10 most misheard songs – using lyrics people have misheard for years, such as ‘Never gonna run around with dessert spoons’ instead of the correct ‘Never gonna run around and desert you’.

But Astley admits that while it was fun to re-record the misheard version, it was no easy task. “To be honest, I found it really hard to do,” he says, “because I’m obviously just used to singing the right words. And even when I sang the wrong ones, it was almost like my brain couldn’t hear the wrong lyric. It was really a very weird experience!”

He stresses that because his career depends on being able to hear well, he feels a strong connection with encouraging people to look after their hearing. “If I try and imagine what my life would have been without being able to hear – I can’t even think about that. And the misery of seeing a couple of people I know who’ve been in music all their lives and who’ve really struggled with hearing is terrible, and it’s frightening.”

Despite his own hearing loss, Astley is still making plenty of music, and has recently released the album Are We There Yet?, which features his latest single Never Gonna Stop. He’s currently touring, and will play the Royal Albert Hall at the beginning of November.

But despite his new album and the tour, Astley says he does manage to wangle a little free time every now and then, and he likes nothing better than simply getting together with friends and family – including his daughter, when she’s visiting from her home in Denmark.

“I think one of the things I look forward to most at the minute is just hanging out with friends and family, which sounds incredibly boring. But as I get a bit older, I just think life goes so goddamn fast,” he says.

“The thing is, when you’re young, you feel invincible, don’t you? People drive too fast and do all kinds of things too much. But you get to a certain age and you’re looking at what years you’ve got left – I’m looking at the distant horizon and saying ‘right, I want to make the most of the years I’ve got, I want to enjoy myself, I want to do some fun things – we have to be careful not to turn into complete old fogeys just yet!’”

The re-recorded version of Never Gonna Give You Up is available to listen to on YouTube.