Since forming metal band Saxon in 1977, frontman Biff Byford has been exposed to loud music, which has resulted in hearing loss.
He says: “I discovered heavy metal music as a teenager, so I’ve been around high decibels and loud equipment for over 50 years. 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.”
Health is everything – heart attacks and hearing loss… Biff continues: “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. 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.
The rock ‘n’ rollin continues… “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.”
Message to fellow rockers… “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. 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.
10 Quick Fire Questions With Biff Byford:
Favourite TV series? “ITV News at 10.”
How many instruments do you play? “Four.”
What’s your favourite sound? “Rock guitar.”
Favourite weekend activity? “Riding my bike or motorcycle.”
Ideal holiday location? “France.”
Favourite band (not Saxon)? “Black Sabbath.”
Favourite song right now? “‘Revolution’ by Heavy Water.”
Best gig you’ve ever played? “Donnington Park 1980.”
A phrase that changed your life? “‘Never Surrender’.”
A moment in my life I’ll never forget? “Having a heart attack.”