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Interview with Jane Russell Movie Star and Hearing Aid Wearer

Jane Russell

November 11, 2002
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Starkey Hearing Foundation's Great American Awards Gala

AO/Beck: Hi Ms. Russell. It is an honor to meet you.

Russell: Hi Dr. Beck, nice to meet you too.

AO/Beck: I have to tell you, I am a big fan of yours, me and about 50 million other guys! Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today.

Russell: Well, it's no problem at all. Thank you for inviting me.

AO/Beck: Before we get to the issues related to your hearing and hearing loss, can you tell me a little about your life - did you plan on becoming an actress?

Russell: Well, my cousin and I were the only two girls in the family, and we had 12 brothers and male cousins around us constantly while growing up - so we understood men! She had 6 brothers and I had 4, and then there were 2 other cousins - all male. I'm strictly a right brain person, and my mother knew that, and she said to me when I was a child.... Dear, you can have music, drama or art, but just skip science and math. So I ended up being an actress and my life has been a series of accidents that the Lord planned.

AO/Beck: When you think back on your career, what were the highlights?

Russell: Well, working with Clark Gable, Richard Egan, Bob Mitchum and Bob Hope wasn't a bad thing at all. Although most of the time, it seemed our movies revolved around the boy's story, I was happy to be the girl in the story, it worked out pretty nicely.

AO/Beck: What was your favorite Jane Russell movie?

Russell: Well, I guess I'd have to say it was Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

AO/Beck: Good pick - I saw that one about 300 times. Nonetheless, I think I'd better change this into a conversation about hearing aids and hearing loss pretty soon! Would you please tell me about your experience with hearing loss?

Russell: As a young person my hearing was fine. It's been about 8 years or so since I've had a significant hearing loss. I know when I was working on the sound stage in my early career the sound men were very serious and they demanded good sound quality from the actors, and we delivered, because if we didn't, we were unemployed! Of course Marlin Brando was a little different than the rest, and he got through it all while mumbling - and that must've made the sound men crazy. But, he was Brando, and they just had to cope with it! Then, to make it worse, they started to add musical background behind bad diction, and for hearing impaired people, that's just about intolerable. So I think what happens is in film today, the sound gets plenty of attention, but the attention is focused on mood and emotion, not clarity of speech, and that really is unfortunate.

AO/Beck: Am I correct that for you, your hearing loss wasn't apparent to you based on loudness, it was based on clarity of speech? In other words, sounds seemed loud enough, but the words just weren't clear?

Russell: Yes, that's right. If they spoke clearly, I did fine. Before I got hearing aids, everyone seemed to mumble.

AO/Beck: Miss Russell, can you tell me how long you've been wearing hearing aids please?

Russell: About 7 or 8 years.

AO/Beck: And if you would, please tell me the difference between hearing the world with your hearing aids in, versus not wearing the hearing aids?

Russell: When I wear the hearing aids, I am able to tell what the words are. You see, even without the hearing aids, I can hear, but the words are all jumbled. The hearing aids act to amplify the parts of speech that my own ears don't hear, and when that sound is added to what I already hear, the final result is a clear word or sentence.

AO/Beck: I understand that today is a particularly important day for you because you'll be getting your Starkey digital hearing aids today.

Russell: Yes, that's right. I'm looking forward to it.

AO/Beck: What would you tell the 26 million Americans who have hearing loss, but haven't purchased hearing aids this year?

Russell: I'd say Don't be an idiot - get your hearing aids! Especially men. Women will wear hearing aids but men are so vain, they usually make the rest of us suffer with their hearing loss, but they don't want to wear hearing aids. How ridiculous that is!

AO/Beck: You're right. There's a wonderful little saying that many of us use, it goes Your hearing loss is more obvious than your hearing aids.

Russell: I like that. I'll have to start using that line!

AO/Beck: Do you use any assistive listening devices to help with TV or the phone?

Russell: Yes. I recently purchased a TV amplifier and it's a ridiculous looking headset, but it works very well. I can sit across the room from the TV and hear it perfectly.

AO/Beck: Thanks Miss Russell. I'll look forward to speaking with you again after you get the new Starkey digitals

AO/Beck: Hi Miss Russell. I know it has only been about 24 hours since you got the new digitals, but I was hoping to get your early thoughts on them?

Russell: Well, I should tell your readers that we are at a cocktail party as we speak, and we're at this wonderful gala event in Minneapolis to help raise money for the Starkey Hearing Foundation. That's important because even though the noise is really significant, the new digitals are wonderful, really wonderful. I am very impressed.

AO/Beck: Are you able to hear comfortably without the noise driving you nuts?

Russell: Yes, I've been enjoying the conversations and the company too. I can even hear the grand piano behind us, but it is not overwhelming. The hearing aids feel very natural and I am quite pleased with the sound.

AO/Beck: Do your ears feel plugged-up at all?

Russell: Not any longer. They did feel plugged-up at first, when I first tried them on yesterday, but they put a few holes in the hearing aids, and now they're perfect.Very comfortable.

AO/Beck: The holes you're referring to are called vents and as you pointed out, they can relieve the feeling of being plugged-up.

Russell: Well, I can tell you the hearing aids are much more comfortable with the vents than they were without the vents, and that took away the feeling of speaking into a microphone.

AO/Beck: Thanks Miss Russell. It has been a pleasure speaking with you. I appreciate your sharing your story with us.

Russell: Happy to do so Dr. Beck. Thank you too.

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Jane Russell

Movie Star

Hearing Aid Wearer



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