Benidorm’s Sherrie Hewson talks about hearing loss and her ageing ‘phobia’
Sherrie Hewson admits she struggled to face up to her increasing hearing loss, because she's "paranoid" about ageing. "I find myself in denial about a lot of things which indicate I'm getting older, and struggling to hear is one of the signs. I didn't want to admit it was happening," says the actress, 68, who was warned about the issue five years ago but ignored it. My hearing loss has been such a gradual thing that I didn't notice it at first. I'd blame people who don't speak loudly enough - everything I could think of apart from myself," she confides.
Nottingham-born Hewson - well known for her role as the long suffering manager of the Solana Hotel in ITV's Benidorm, and previously dizzy shop assistant Maureen Webster in Coronation Street - has just started wearing hearing aids in both ears. She discovered she needed them during a check up at Specsavers, and is working with the brand to help reduce the stigma associated with hearing loss.
"I really knew there must be something wrong when my granddaughter said, 'Nana, why are you always shouting?' And also I know I need to have the TV on terribly loud," she says. "If I'm honest, I'd also started trying to lip-read to help me understand what people were saying to me in noisy restaurants. Now everything seems so clear, and I even have to turn down the aids sometimes because life feels too noisy," she enthuses. "They're so tiny and yellow to match my hair - you can't see them. The audiologist explained I had significant hearing loss in my left ear - the ear I've always used for an earpiece for studio work in shows like Loose Women," she adds. "Maybe that was part of it."
Although she accepts she needs the hearing aids, here, the glamorous and bubbly star talks honestly about how she's still battling emotionally with the effects of ageing, and why contentment will always elude her...
Why do you worry so much about ageing?
"I've always had a problem with it, it's like a phobia. There's nothing I like about ageing and, in part, that's because I definitely lack confidence and self-worth. In my head, I think people are focusing on how much I've aged. I tend to dwell on my lines and wrinkles. I've had a lot of stress in my life over the years, things haven't always been easy, and that shows on my face. I think being in show business, where people do focus on your appearance a lot, doesn't help either. But even I realise it's silly to make so much of it, but I can't seem to do anything about it. My mother, who was beautiful and still wearing a bikini in her 80s, used to get so cross and tell me: 'You've got two choices in life - ageing or death. Much better to settle for the first, so get on with it!' I know she was right and these days I accept that much more. I'm actually a very joyful person, who loves life, and realise I'm lucky to be here. A lot of people don't get to my age, and I do appreciate that."
What age would you like to be?
"About 20 years ago, when I was around 48, I think was 'my time', when I looked fresher and less wrinkly than I do now. I avoid mirrors, but when I do [look at myself] and don't see that young face any more, it's a bit sad. I had a facelift about 20 years ago and reacted very badly to the anaesthetic, so I'd never go there again, but if there was something non-invasive that could give me a bit of a boost, I'd go for it. I've tried Botox, fillers and threading and none of it lasts. I know I'll always look in the mirror and think, 'Ooh, there must be something I can do', and that won't get better with age."
Would you ever retire?
"Never, work is the only thing I know. I've never had a proper job in my life! I've worked pretty much continuously since I started at age six. I recently finished reprising my role as hotel manager Joyce Temple-Savage in a nine-month UK tour with stage show Benidorm - Live, which has been incredible and nothing like anything I've ever experienced before. It was a phenomenal success, with every venue packed and people showing how emotionally involved they are with the story, and hundreds waiting to see us at the stage door every night."
Are you happy?
"I am very happy but I think I'll always struggle to have that calm contentment some people reach at my age, because I'm very restless by nature and always have been. I'm always looking for more and the next excitement. I'm a plotter and a planner and love constant activity and busyness. I'm not a good sleeper because once my brain starts rolling, I can't stop it very easily."
What's got you through the tough times?
"First, I'm a survivor - my mother, an incredibly strong person, gave me the steel that goes right through me and created a character who can get through just about everything. The girls on Loose Women were wonderful friends and helped me through so much. I was on the show 15 years and would go back tomorrow. I miss the girls, they were so kind to me, and were there for me when I went through my dreadful divorce, lost my hair and suffered all sorts of stresses. They'd boost me but also never hesitated to tell me not to be silly when I was moaning about my looks."
You're currently single - would you like a partner?
"I've totally given up on looking for love. I don't think that will happen to me now. I haven't met anyone since I split from my husband [DJ Ken Boyd who she married in 1983]. We were together 24 years but really we should probably have called it a day after five. My one regret is that both of us should have faced up to the fact it wasn't working far earlier than we did, and maybe we could both have gone on to have happiness and families with other people. It's a terrible shame but we're friends now and have a wonderful daughter out of it."
How do you look after your health?
"I've been lucky never to have anything seriously wrong with me, only a few small things like blood pressure and a thyroid problem. I try to help myself stay healthy. I don't eat red meat because I don't think it's easily digested, I avoid sweet things, and nowadays I only drink say a glass or two of wine, far less than in the past. I take vitamin supplements and magnesium."
And how do you look after your wellbeing?
"The loves of my life are my grandchildren - Oliver, 12, Molly, eight, and the latest one, Rosie, five weeks. They're the reason my heart beats and hugs and cuddles from them are the best mental health boost I can have. I absolutely love being a granny because it means I can play, have fun and be silly, and of course, it's brilliant spending time with their mum, my daughter Keeley. For the first time in my life, I'm giving myself a little break from working so I can spend some more time with the family."
Sherrie Hewson is working with Specsavers to help remove the stigma associated with hearing loss. For more information or to book a hearing check, visit www.specsavers.co.uk/hearing.