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The Name is Friel

Brian Friel writes about hearing loss…

Posted: 9th October 2015

Recently, Brian Friel, one of Ireland’s greatest ever writers passed away. In the late 1950s and early 1960s Brian Friel wrote a regular column in The Irish Times. The columns were chatty in tone, and revealed personal content that may surprise those who remember him as a man who wrote serious plays, made few public appearances and hated to talk about himself. Some of these columns were republished in The Irish Times following his passing, and one of them reveals his personal insights into deafness which remain pertinent to this day. The Name is Friel: Brian Friel writes about deafness.


‘The Name Is Friel’

December 16th, 1957

When the door opened, I could see that the waiting room was already overcrowded and about a dozen people stood silently along both sides of the hall. A crisp receptionist looked at me.

“Friel,” I said pleasantly.  “I have an appointment with the doctor at half past.”

A dozen pairs of interested eyes roved over me. Any diversion was welcome to them; last year’s magazines were in the waiting room.

“Friel? Friel?” said the receptionist consulting her book. “James Friel?”

“No. Brian Friel.”

“B P Friel.”

“Yes. Yes. BP. Brian Patrick”

She frowned at her book.  She looked up at me.  “What was the appointment for?”

I hesitated.  One does not like shouting one’s ailments over the housetops.  “As a matter of fact ,” I began.

“Oh I remember now. You want to have your ears syringed. Isn’t that it? You are deaf in the left ear.  How stupid of me to have forgotten!”


It whistled and
buzzed furiously…


Twenty-four eyes were glued to my left ear.  It whistled and buzzed furiously.

She stood aside and I reeled into the hall and flattened myself against the wall between a corpulent man and a woman who clutched a child with a snotty nose.  I patted the child on the head with the tips of my fingers.  “A bad cold, eh, eh?”

The mother drew the child into her protectively. “Nothing wrong with the wain. It’s me. I’ve got asthma.”  And she wheezed in demonstration and patted her chest and nodded at me to see did I understand her sign language.

The woman turned to the sallow girl next to her. “Terrible affliction is deafness, dear. Specially when they’re not so young.  Like him there.  Makes life so lonely for them.  And then its pride that keeps them from using a hearing aid.”

The receptionist came out of her office and walked over to me.  She caught me by the arm as if to lead me into the surgery.  Some demon seized me then, some unaccountable frenzy over which I had no control.  For I wrinkled up my face like a gnome and wriggled my fingers at the ceiling and did a little skip into the air.

“Tra-la-la, tra-la-la.  Hi-bongo  boo-boo-boo. The cat and the cosy cot. Choo-choo-choo.”

That shook them.

And then it’s pride that
keeps them from using a hearing aid. Line Break Image


Some of Brian Friel’s observations about hearing loss are true to this day: people delay an average of 10 YEARS to address their hearing loss, with a consequent impact on their health and quality of life.

Reducing this delay is the focus of the Mind Your Hearing Campaign. Thankfully, some things have changed since 1957: modern digital hearing aids do not whistle and buzz furiously, but use leading technologies to give people with hearing loss much improved quality of life.

A new website giving advice to people concerned about hearing loss also was also launched at the event and can be visited at




Concerned About Hearing Loss Leaflet

Download File
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Media Contacts will provide spokespersons to comment on issues relevant to Deaf and Hard of Hearing people on request.

To contact Brendan Lennon; Head of Information and Policy, click here...




more...Hearing loss costs an estimated €2.2bn every year in Ireland.


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