Hearing loss might affect how your ears perceive sounds, but it can’t stop the music from playing in your head. No surprise here: many musicians’ suffer from hearing problems as a direct result of their careers.
It’s in the nature of their work environment: high volume in close quarters, every day. Prolonged exposure to the painfully loud decibel levels that come along with being a rock star has taken its toll; but that hasn’t stopped many musicians from pursuing their passion, even though many acknowledge they should have been more conscientious of their hearing health earlier in their careers. Others, however, had hearing loss before they entered the music industry and made a name for themselves in spite of their condition.
Beethoven is the prime example of the successful musician with hearing issues. As many know, the deaf 18th-century composer’s hearing began declining in his 20s, meaning he created his most celebrated works long after his hearing was gone. The following list highlights some other famous singers, musicians, composers and producers who continued to pick up the mic, guitar, or the baton, despite their hearing loss.
The list is unranked because we here at Healthy Hearing don’t play favorites!
Franki Valli: The famous Four Seasons singer underwent surgery in 1967 to correct his osteosclerosis, a condition that hardens the bones in the middle ear. Valli told Billboard the surgery brought one of his ears up to 98 percent from 35 percent. The other ear was restored to 87 percent.
Brian Wilson: The Beach Boys mastermind has been partially deaf in his right ear for the majority of his life.
Eric Clapton: The legendary guitar player rocked out too many nights next to ear-shattering amps; Clapton is now partially deaf, though he’s not sure in which ear.
Pete Townshend: The Who’s guitarist once played a concert that held the world record for being the loudest for ten years. He is now almost deaf.
Neil Young: The music legend made the album Harvest Moon because he wanted softer sounds, which helped him deal with tinnitus.
Ozzy Osbourne: Heavy metal isn’t easy on the ears, and the Black Sabbath frontman and reality show star has hearing loss to prove it.
Phil Collins: The singer gave up music in 2011 for medical reasons, including his hearing health. Collins found his hearing ability has diminished over the years of his career and so he chose to walk away from performing.
will.i.am: A constant “beep” plagues the 39-year-old rock’n’roller, who revealed his battle with tinnitus four years ago. The Black Eyed Peas musician claims making music is the only thing that silences the ringing.
Grimes: The 26-year-old indie-pop rocker canceled her entire European tour two years ago due to a case of tinnitus. She even reports she once pressed her ears against the speakers at a concert by her favorite band, Animal Collective.
Chris Martin: The Coldplay frontman revealed his 10-year battle with tinnitus in 2012, saying the condition gives him excruciating headaches. Since he started wearing earplugs, his tinnitus hasn’t worsened.
George Martin: Famous for his time spent as a producer for The Beatles, Martin discovered his hearing loss in the studio in the 1970s.
Danny Elfman: OK, former band member. Once the frontman for Oingo Boingo, Elfman surrendered the stage in favor of the studio when his tinnitus and hearing loss worsened. Now a composer, Elfman is most famous for composing The Simpsons’ theme song and for his long-time partnership with director Tim Burton.
Music, when played too loud, can cause hearing loss in anyone. When listening to music, you can lower your risk of noise-induced hearing loss by using earplugs in loud environments like concerts, turning down the volume or sound on personal music devices and using a volume limiter on when using personal audio equipment.