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Karaoke helps Blackhall Rocks man improve his speech following Parkinson's diagnosis
A MAN diagnosed 15 years ago with Parkinson’s disease has installed a soundproof karaoke studio in his home after discovering that belting out a tune helps him with his speech.
Dennis Winn, 68, of Blackhall Rocks, County Durham, says having a good sense of humour and positive outlook has helped him fight back against the degenerative condition.
He has devised a series of ways to help overcome the symptoms, which include speech problems and “freezing” - which can leave him stranded in public places.
Mr Winn, part of the Hartlepool & District branch of Parkinson’s UK, only discovered his love of singing after he was diagnosed.
“We were on holiday in Fuerteventura and the DJ said, give us a song on the karaoke, and I was coerced into getting up.
"But I loved it and I kept singing, and sang for a fortnight on holiday. I discovered then that the more I sang, the better my speaking voice became. My voice used to tail off but it is much better through the singing.
“I have kept on singing since then and it really benefits me.
“I have a neighbour who comes round now and again and we have a couple of beers and a sing song on the karaoke machine.
"I have soundproofing because I wouldn’t want to upset the other neighbours.”
Mr Winn also found a way of overcoming freezing – something which means many Parkinson’s sufferers become stranded.
“For some time this curtailed my freedom,” he said. “Then necessity became the mother of invention. I can now overcome freezing in almost any situation by applying childhood games. I kick a small cardboard box in front of me as if kicking a stone. I shine a light in front of my feet and step on the reflection. Another is following someone’s footsteps. Now I can confidently go to the golf club on a Friday night.”
Mr Winn even found novel ways of carrying on playing golf and last year even achieved a hole in one at Castle Eden Golf Club – something which earned him a nomination in The Northern Echo’s Local Heroes awards.
His friend Brian Davies, who also has Parkinson’s, said: “He is really quite a good singer. He sings Dean Martin songs. Before he had Parkinson’s he couldn’t sing a note but he has discovered his voice and it has really helped him.
“We read recently that singer Linda Ronstadt announced she had given up singing because she had Parkinson’s and said she couldn’t sing any more, which is a real shame. It will be interesting to see how Billy Connelly will react now he has been diagnosed. Dennis is living proof that you can fight back against it.”
Mr Winn added: “I have Parkinson’s but Parkinson’s doesn’t have me. I don’t do anything heroic. I simply believe in taking things back that Parkinson’s took from me.”
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