The ex-rugby player has tinnitus

Strictly Come Dancing contestant Ben Cohen has revealed that he has to lip-read on the show as he’s profoundly deaf.

The former rugby star suffers from tinnitus – a constant ringing in the ears – and has had problems with his hearing his whole life which he has learned to cope with.

But taking part in Strictly has been a massive new challenge for Ben.

Having lost 50% of my hearing is tough but that is not my issue – it’s the tinnitus that is the problem,’ says Ben, 35.

Training for Strictly is hard enough as it is. I have never danced before and I don’t have natural rhythm. But it’s learning the steps with Kristina [Rihanoff], my dance partner] that is really challenging.

If there are any high-pitched sounds in the room, it affects my consonants, like T and K, so Kristina needs to be in front of me so I can hear what she is saying.

As a result, I have to rely on lip-reading, which I’ve become great at, and I jokily say to Kristina: “Talking to me nicely is always good!”‘

Ben received a surprising source of help in 2011 when Elton John – who also suffers from bad hearing – got in touch with him to recommend he visit Bill Starkey, a US hearing aid manufacturer.

The dad-of-two received a top new implement but he’s still hesitant about wearing it on Strictly.

The thought of the live shows was daunting and I was worried the high-pitched sound of the band could affect my hearing but it hasn’t,’ Ben tells the Mirror.

However, I’ve not worn my hearing aid in case it flies out when I’m dancing! It’s easier for me to hear the lower sounds I need to hear without it.

But it has changed my life. Ultimately, I have a lot to thank Elton John for. He has helped me tremendously and I can’t thank him enough.’

SEE PICTURES Ben Cohen at launch of Strictly Come Dancing 2013 series

SEE PICTURES Ben Cohen and Strictly Come Dancing contestants 2013

Anna Francis