Peter Schmeichel on overcoming the stigma of wearing hearing aids

By Lisa Salmon, PA

Manchester United goalkeeping legend Peter Schmeichel has just been fitted with his first hearing aids. And he wants everyone to hear about it.

The 60-year-old Dane had a hearing test two years ago after seeing an ENT specialist about a separate problem, and reveals: “He did a hearing test and told me I was on my way towards hearing aids. That was a little bit of a shock for me.

“When you lose your hearing, whatever you’ve lost, you will never gain that again – there’s absolutely nothing that can be done to get more hearing. It’s just going to be gradually worse and worse, and a hearing aid will protect it.

“If you don’t do something about it, who’s to say how much you can hear in 10 years?”

But despite the warning, Schmeichel – who’d always been unable to hear high frequency sounds, but says it didn’t really bother him – still did nothing about his deteriorating hearing.

A post shared by Peter Schmeichel (@pschmeichel1)

“I believe I was born with some kind of hearing loss, which got progressively worse over time to the point where I would really struggle in social situations where there was a lot of background noise,” he says.

“But it’s taken me two years to actually have it done [get hearing aids] because, like everybody else, I’ve been connecting hearing aids with ageing, and maybe a handicap as well and stuff like that. But that’s really, really stupid – it’s ridiculous.”

The former goalie, who won five Premier League titles with Manchester United, and captained the team when it won the Champions League final in 1999 and secured the English treble, finally decided it was time to take action about his hearing when he struggled to hear fellow footballer Freddie Ljungberg when the pair were on stage together at an event.

“We were on stage in front of 700 people, and I was really, really struggling to hear what was being said, and I’m thinking ‘I’ve got to do something about this now’,” he recalls.

Peter Scmeichel (Boots Hearingcare/PA)
The former footballer believes he was born with a type of hearing loss (Boots Hearingcare/PA)

Although it took Schmeichel two years to finally get hearing aids after he realised his hearing had deteriorated, he points out: “Like most people, I’d been thinking about it – it took me a long time to say, okay, I’m going to go and do this. I was only two years in making that decision, but the average thinking time is 10 years – do you know how much hearing you can lose in 10 years?”

Research by Boots Hearingcare has found a third (33%) of hearing aid users say they didn’t take action initially as they felt embarrassed about the idea of wearing a hearing aid, and 43% admit they put off booking a hearing test because they were ‘living in denial’. And some of that denial may stem from the unfavourable perception about hearing aids only being for the frail and elderly – three-quarters (74%) of the people surveyed agreed that hearing loss and the use of hearing aids still comes with a stigma attached.

Schmeichel has teamed up with Boots Hearingcare to challenge that stigma and encourage people who think their hearing is deteriorating to visit their GP or an audiologist to get it checked out.

Speaking on Zoom from Los Angeles, where he’s preparing to be a UEFA Euro 24 pundit for an American TV channel, he admits initially the hearing aids made his ears feel “scratchy”, although he’s had them adjusted a few times and they’re much better now.

“It’s a little bit annoying in the beginning, because there’s a lot of things to get used to – some of the noises you’re not used to hearing are amplified in a way you’re not comfortable with,” he admits.

“But what it does is if I turned my back to you, for instance, and you were in the same room and you spoke to me I would be able to hear you. Before, I wouldn’t.”

Peter Schmeichel (Boots Hearingcare/PA)
Having his hearing aids adjusted has helped Schmeichel hear better (Boots Hearingcare/PA)

And to really test his new devices out, Schmeichel went to the same concert two nights running, wearing his hearing aids to one gig, but not the other. “What I was trying to find out was first of all, how was I hearing the music?” he explains. “But secondly, and actually more importantly, was how was the interaction on the little table we were at? And it was really, really good when I was wearing them, and more difficult when I wasn’t. So it’s definitely a big improvement for me.”

So has his wife, model Laura Von Lindholm, noticed the difference in her husband’s hearing?

“Not really,” he admits, although he stresses he’s been away most of the five weeks or so that he’s been wearing them, and points out that before he left for LA he was driving with his wife in his home town of Copenhagen, and when she spoke to him he didn’t have to ask her to repeat what she said over the traffic noise because he was wearing the hearing aids.

“She might not have noticed the difference, but I did!” he happily declares.

Now that he’s finally taken the plunge and saved his hearing, Schmeichel wants to make sure other people with untreated hearing loss take action too. “I just want to put one message out there – don’t hold back, don’t think it’s embarrassing to wear a hearing aid. Have a test, and if you’re suffering hearing loss, think you’ll never be better, you’ll only get worse, but with hearing aids, you will protect your hearing.

“It keeps you at social gatherings, it improves your life. So there are no excuses not to have a hearing test and not to see where you’re at. No excuses whatsoever.”

A post shared by Peter Schmeichel (@pschmeichel1)

As Euro 24 is about to kick-off, a chat with former Denmark keeper Schmeichel, whose goalkeeper son Kasper is in the Denmark Euro 24 squad, isn’t complete without asking if he’ll be supporting Denmark, who are in England’s group, when they play England on June 20.

“Of course, it’s my country!” he declares.

But is England his second team? After all, he lived here for many years when he played for Manchester United, as well as much shorter stints at Aston Villa and Manchester City.

“I don’t have a second team,” he says. “I used to support England because my friends were playing in the team, but now obviously I’m more than 20 years out of football, so I don’t know anyone personally in the England squad. But I always used to support the teams where I had teammates, and friends in it, and that was quite a big group.

“No, I support Denmark, of course. We didn’t have the best of World Cups in Qatar and we need to do better. We have a better team than we did back then. And along comes England in the second game. But I can’t support England!”

Peter Schmeichel has teamed up with