SAXON frontman Biff Byford has opened up about his hearing loss, saying that wearing a hearing aid after being exposed to loud music for over 40 years has greatly improved his overall quality of life.
He says: "Since forming SAXON in 1977, we have released a new album every 18 months and have no plans of slowing down. Performing at gigs, playing our new songs in front of crowds and hearing them sing along is one of the greatest feelings in the world. That's why I knew I had to get my hearing tested before our first gig back at Bloodstock Open Air Festival in August.
"I discovered heavy metal music as a teenager, so I've been around high decibels and loud equipment for over 50 years," he continues. "Back in the day at gigs sound restrictions didn't exist like they do now. Sometimes when performing we would put our heads right into the speakers and rock out.
"I remember being at an autograph signing session and the fans kept asking questions and trying 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 gradually getting worse, but I lived with it. I would be at the studio and my tinnitus would be awful, it sounded like someone was screaming in my ear. Some days were better than but the ringing.
"Then, one day, my whole perspective on health changed. I had a heart attack before undergoing an emergency triple bypass surgery.
"I was on my bike. I do a lot of biking and walking. Heart attacks aren't like what you see in Hollywood films, I was breathless and in a lot of pain. My doctor sent me straight to the hospital where I had a heart bypass. It took me a long time to recover. I told myself after that moment that my health comes first.
"My hearing problems were also affecting my personal life as well," Biff admits. "Dinner time with my family was especially hard. I found it difficult to keep up with conversation so gradually after time I just stopped trying. I would sit there and become more detached. It was lonely at times.
"In line with my new stance on life — 'health comes first' — I went to Hidden Hearing, a high street hearing specialist where I had a hearing test. The audiologist was great, very knowledgeable about frequencies and how music can damage the ears, so we were able to have a proper conversation. I knew I was in safe hands.
"Since I was fitted with my hearing aids Oticon More, I have been very impressed, especially with the Bluetooth as I can stream music straight from device to ear. Getting the aid is like turning back on the enjoyment button on life. I can hear things that I haven't heard in a long time, like the certain notes of a guitar string, instruments like base guitar and drums no longer sound flat. Another bonus is my tinnitus has got so much better, it's no way near as invasive as before. The aids have really helped reduce the severity with that.
"Music is a form of escapism, when you're at a gig it doesn't matter what is going on in the world all you care about is being there," Byford adds. "It helps people feel alive. The problem is many people attend gigs regularly, sometimes twice a week or used to before the pandemic, and your ears really feel the impact of that. Especially back in the day when there were no sound restrictions in venues. I know I'm not the only one who has experienced hearing loss as a result of attending shows! I would say to any fellow rockers or fans of ours if you're in your 50s or 60s, go and get your ears tested. It has made such a big difference to my life; I hardly even notice the hearing aid."
SAXON released a covers album, "Inspirations", in March via Silver Lining Music. The 11-track effort contains some of the classic rock songs that influenced Byford and the rest of the band.
Byford and guitarist Paul Quinn are the sole remaining original members in SAXON's current lineup.
Originally from South Yorkshire, England, SAXON has gone on to sell about 23 million albums and has produced such classic songs as "Denim And Leather", "Princess Of The Night", "Wheels Of Steel" and "Power And Glory".
Biff recently collaborated with his son Seb (NAKED SIX) on a new album, "Red Brick City", to be released later this month under the band name HEAVY WATER.