10 Iconic Musicians Who Lost Their Hearing

Classic and modern rock ‘n roll artists have taken the “If it’s too loud you’re too old” stance when it comes to living out their passion for music. Unfortunately, statistics delivered by the Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers organization (H.E.A.R.) say that “60% of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are hearing impaired”.

Below are some of the world’s favorite musicians who have experienced problems with their hearing.

Neil Young (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Crazy Horse, Buffalo Springfield etc)

Neil Young has been inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame twice in his life. The musician has turned to folk music in order to manage his tinnitus (a condition associated with the perception of a constant loud ringing in one’s ear). His condition has improved slightly over the years, allowing him to release many more records. When commenting on his hearing, Neil Young stated “I hurt my ears and they’ll never be the same again”.

Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath)

Ozzy Osbourne’s hearing issues have often been revealed on The Osbourne’s, a reality tv show about Ozzy and his outrageous family. Ozzy, (also known as The Prince of Darkness) frequently has to ask his family to repeat themselves to hear what they say. Despite his hearing issues, Ozzy has managed to release a new album, 13, with Black Sabbath in 2013.

Phil Collins (Genesis)

Another highly popular stadium musician, Phil Collins, has been subjected to severe hearing problems. Although many have stated that the career of Phil Collins ended long before the date, his official hiatus occurred in 2011.

Jeff Beck (The Yardbirds, The Jeff Beck Group, The Honeydrippers, Beck etc)

In 1993 Jeff Beck commented on his tinnitus in Guitar Magazine: “Well, you can say why is a guy scratching at a window with his nails such a horrible sound – I couldn’t put up with that! This is worse!”

Eric Clapton (The Yardbirds, Cream, Derek & The Dominoes)

Eric Clapton is known to be one of the most influential guitarists in the world. Clapton was renowned for turning his amp up “to eleven”, surpassing the volume capabilities for his amplifier. When other musicians playing with him complained, he would simply reply: “That’s the way I play”.

By pushing his volume to extremes and moving his mike across the room in a certain way he achieved feedback and sustain (a way to achieve long holding notes). This sound made him a successful musician, but also led to his tinnitus today. According to Clapton, he “probably had two 100-watt stacks at the height of things” and would turn it up for guitar solos. “It was just mad!” – out of the horse’s mouth.

Pete Townshend (The Who)

Pete Townshend is the guitarist of one of the most influential bands of all time, The Who. Townshend’s music career spans over more than 40 years. Unfortunately, his hearing has deteriorated immensely over the years. He is the founding donor of H.E.A.R, an organization dedicated to educating musicians about hearing loss and tinnitus.

Noel Gallagher (Oasis)

Noel Gallagher of Oasis is an example of a modern musician experiencing hearing problems. In an interview with Andy Goldstein (a British DJ), he described his experience with tinnitus as follows: “I went for a brain scan. They did find it. I’ve got bizarre ringing in my ears. I think it’s just through playing guitar for the last 20 years so I had to sit in a tube in the hospital”.

Chris Martin

In recent years, Chris Martin has admitted to suffering from tinnitus in support of Action On Hearing Loss’s Loud Music campaign.

Chris Martin has highlighted the key issue with hearing health: ‘Looking after your ears is, unfortunately, something you don’t think about until there’s a problem. I’ve had tinnitus for about 10 years, and since I started protecting my ears it hasn’t got any worse (touch wood). But I wish I’d thought about it earlier”.

KT Tunstall

KT Tunstall

KT Tunstall is an ambassador of the Hear The World Foundation. She suffers from tinnitus and has slight hearing loss in one of her ears. She has also explained that “it’s only when you experience a problem that you realize how precious your hearing is”.

Lars Ulrich (Metallica)

Lars Ulrich of Metallica has commented on tinnitus: “If you get a scratch on your nose, in a week that’ll be gone”. “When you scratch your hearing or damage your hearing, it doesn’t come back. I try to point out to younger kids … once your hearing is gone, it’s gone, and there’s no real remedy.”

The risk of damaging or losing one’s hearing is often overlooked. As a musician, you should take responsibility and protect your hearing. Here are some useful tips to do exactly that.

  • Get the best quality ear protection for musicians that you can afford, it is an investment.
  • Purchase good sound filters. Filters with “flat attenuation” will dampen the volume of the music but not distort the sound, so that the music that you are listening to sounds the same. Cheap sound filters lower treble volumes, but don’t necessarily do the same for bass levels.
  • Buy fitted moulds and invest in 2 pairs so that you have spares. Fitted moulds are customised to fit perfectly into your ear so that your hearing is evenly protected, and the fact that it’s fitted prevents your ear plugs from falling out.

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