Rugby World Cup winner Ben Cohen opens up about his deafness to inspire the next generation

Former England ruby union winger and Strictly Come Dancing contestant Ben Cohen opened up about his deafness to show the UK’s 50,000 deaf children that there’s no limit to what they can achieve.  

Ben Cohen was speaking about his deafness to launch the National Deaf Children’s Society’s Raising the Bar, to inspire deaf young people to get involved in the arts. 

Ben Cohen explained: “Ever since I was a young kid, I’ve been profoundly deaf in both ears. It’s been tough at times. It means I rely a lot on lip reading, and if someone has their back turned – I haven’t got a clue what they’re saying.

“Being deaf has never stopped me from achieving my dreams. It’s never meant I couldn’t do what I always wanted to do. What it has done has made me focused, made me determined, and made me never give up, even when things have been a challenge.

“Whether it’s during my rugby career, or competing on TV programmes like Strictly Come Dancing, my deafness has always been a part of who I am. Sometimes it was me not hearing what the coach was saying during training because I was looking the wrong way.

“On Strictly, it was Kristina trying to explain complex dance routines when I was spinning her around in the air, and not quite being able to hear the music in the background. But even though it’s been a challenge at times, by persevering, trying and keeping going, it doesn’t mean I’ve not been able to succeed. 

Ben Cohen spoke out about his deafness and how he has overcome some of the challenges thrown in front of him to help inspire the UK’s 50,000 deaf children and young people, many of whom often suffer from low self-esteem and a lack of confidence.

Raising the Bar is the National Deaf Children’s Society’s flagship event to get deaf children involved in the performing arts. Deaf young people will take part in workshops with industry experts in acting, dance, and music. After the performing arts workshops, Raising the Bar will culminate in a showcase at the Ruddock Performing Arts Centre in Birmingham on 12 and 13 May.

Ben Cohen, who played a starring role in the 2003 Rugby World Cup and is deaf, said: “I know for deaf children so many areas of life can be difficult, and can be frustrating. That’s why it’s so brilliant to be launching the National Deaf Children’s Society’s Raising the Bar”.

“It’s such a great way to build confidence and show that for a deaf young person, you can achieve anything a hearing person can, and can absolutely get involved in the arts if that’s what you love and are passionate about.”

Bryony Parkes, who organises the performing arts workshops and final showcase, added: “It’s absolutely brilliant to have Ben Cohen sharing his experiences about growing up deaf and achieving his dreams. Raising the Bar is about making the performing arts more inclusive and about having high expectations of deaf children, not just so they can participate, but so they can thrive too.”

“This is a fantastic opportunity for them to meet other deaf young people with the same passions as them. I have been consistently proud and amazed at the quality of the performance and skill demonstrated by deaf young people who have attended Raising the Bar in the past.” 

The rugby legend Ben Cohen, who is championing this year’s event added: “The final showcase for Raising the Bar in Birmingham will give deaf children the chance to get together, learn new skills with some incredible professionals, and ultimately demonstrate the level of talent there is among deaf children and young people.

“It’s brilliant to support such an amazing event and I hope many more people take this opportunity and enter Raising the Bar this year.”

To find out more and enter Raising the Bar, go to

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