Imagine being on stage in front of thousands of people, but unable to hear the cheers. This is what it’s like for some rock artists with hearing loss. These artists are forced to rely on intuition and experience when performing live. Some have even resorted to wearing earplugs during performances, though this can affect the quality of their music. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised some of these artists suffer from some form of hearing loss – if visiting a rock concert can cause hearing damage, imagine what making the noise can do to your ears. We’ve found six artists with hearing loss to illustrate how common it is.
1. Neil Young
Neil Young was diagnosed with mild to moderate hearing loss when he was in his 40s. He has been very open about it and even admits that the condition is often a struggle that can interfere with his career at times.
It does not hinder him from making great music, however. His recent album The Monsanto Years contains several songs about politics and social issues including GMO foods and the Flint water crisis. Another song on this album called “Who’s Gonna Stand Up?” features a whole list of artists including Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews Band, Neil himself, John Mellencamp among others who have all said they will take action against these important issues. In 2015, Neil Young was honoured with the AARP’s “Annie” award.
2. Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy has been an international rock star since he first sang lead vocals and played the guitar in (very loud band) Black Sabbath. He was diagnosed with tinnitus and hyperacusis after years of performing without earplugs and head protection. This caused him to develop severe hearing damage over time. The diagnosis led him to retire from his career as a heavy metal musician.
Outside of the professional realm, Ozzy also has difficulty understanding speech. He can often be seen wearing hearing aids when in public and is very open about his condition. None of his hearing troubles have stopped Osbourne. He has gone on to have a successful career as an actor. He appeared in several movies and TV shows including The Osbournes.
While we don’t know what hearing aids Ozzy wears, we do have recommendations of the best hearing aids for less than $300 for you.
3. Phil Collins
Phil’s hearing loss was not diagnosed until he had to take a break from the music industry after suffering some health problems. Doctors realized that he has an issue with his left ear. This affects affects his balance and makes it difficult for him to play the drums or even stay on the beat at times. Quite problematic for a world-famous drummer. After losing his normal hearing, Collins went through depression and he has said that this was one of the darkest periods in his life.
4. Brian Wilson
The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson has also been diagnosed with tinnitus. Like Ozzy Osbourne, Brian had to take a break from touring and performing after he started struggling with hearing loss in 2008. He has said that even though it’s sometimes hard for him because music is such an important part of who he is as a person. Since then, he prefers to live a quiet life and spend time with his family, especially since he can still enjoy music through earphones or headphones. When asked about how much of an impact this disability has had on him, Brian says “I don’t think it’s affected me that much except when I get tired.”
5. Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton was diagnosed with tinnitus in 1999 after years of performing without ear protection. He has also been very open about the fact that he is losing his hearing and suffers from a bad case of hyperacusis as well (hyperacusis makes you extremely sensitive to certain sounds such as voices).
Despite these challenges, Eric continues making music and tours regularly around the world where he often performs songs like “Cocaine” which is known for its high volume levels. When asked if all this noise ever affects him, Eric responds by saying: “I go through periods when it’s hard to listen to loud music but I generally find I can still enjoy my old stuff better than some new who have recorded their albums too loud.”
6. Pete Townshend
Pete Townshend is the lead guitarist and songwriter for The Who. He started experiencing hearing problems in 1982 which was around the time when his band released a new album called It’s Hard. Doctors discovered that Pete has mild tinnitus as well as hyperacusis so he had to take a break from touring. Like many other musicians in this list, it hasn’t stopped him from continuing making music.
After The Who, Townshend has gone on to have a successful solo career. He is known for his iconic windmill-style guitar playing as well as being one of the first musicians to use synthesizers in rock back in 1969 during an extended version of “I Can See For Miles.” Tinnitus can sometimes be challenging for him when he’s trying to go to sleep at night or if any other noises bother him, like people chewing loudly (which makes it difficult for him to concentrate). Townshend says: “Alcohol and cigarettes help me cope with my situation. I suppose they’ve given me the self-destructive edge which allows me still do what I do.”