It's Fiddly Putting in a Hearing Aid with No Fingertips; He Has Trekked to the Poles and Conquered Everest. Now Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes Is Facing Another Great Challenge - Overcoming Age-Related Deafness
Byline: Kay Goddard
Over the past few years, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, one of the world's foremost explorers, has battled a litany of health problems. In 2003 he underwent a triple bypass after suffering a major heart attack that left him in a coma for three days.
He has also fought prostate cancer, lost the fingertips of his left hand to frostbite - he famously amputated the blackened ends himself with a saw in his shed in frustration at having to wait for a hospital appointment - and has developed arthritis in his right hip and right hand. He attributes the latter to sleeping in wet and cold conditions during his expeditions, which include treks to the North and South Poles.
So it will come as no surprise to learn that the 67-year-old former SAS officer, who made history by becoming the first British pensioner to conquer Everest, refuses to give in to his latest health setback without a fight. Sir Ranulph is suffering from age-related deafness.
His hearing problems started about three years ago and are, like those of most sufferers, irreversible. 'I wasn't really aware of it at first as it never affected my day-to-day business,' he says.
'And it was never a problem on any of my recent expeditions. Admittedly, I had a couple of problems when I was climbing Everest in 2009 but I put that down to my climbing partner, who refuses to use walkie-talkies.
'But when my wife Louise kept telling me I had the television on too loudly or that I kept saying ''what?'', I suspected something was wrong. Like many people, I explained away my symptoms, often accusing Louise of mumbling.
'The hearing had deteriorated in my right ear, so I could only hear people properly when they were on my left side. But the main problem was when I struggled to hear what people were saying during the question-and-answer sessions after lectures.'
Like many people, Sir Ranulph - a cousin of actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes, and also of the Prince of Wales - chose to ignore his hearing problem until last summer, when he made a trip to Boots in Exmoor, Devon, where he lives with Louise and daughter Elizabeth, five.
'They were offering free hearing checks and I thought, why not. I had nothing to do that day and so took advantage of the offer. I didn't tell Louise I was going, because she'd been telling me for ages to go and have a test and I didn't want her to think she'd been right all along. …