Music can be almost anything. Beautiful, peaceful, angry, aggressive. But in Rock and roll it can be loud. Very, very loud. Think back to some of the best concerts you ever attended. You had a great time. You were immersed in the music and performance. Then on the way back home there is a very distinct possibility you couldn’t manage to get that ringing out of your ears. Now, imagine that for the musicians themselves, wailing away night after night, all the while standing next to gigantic amps and speakers blaring for hours at a time. Oh yeah, it can get loud out there, which can cause significant hearing damage over time for the performers.
Here is a short list of musicians who have some serious hearing impairments.
Rock and Roll ain’t noise pollution, but apparently it can lead to ear conditions…
One of the all-time greatest musicians and songwriters, Neil Young has twice been elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He has created over thirty albums and contributed to countless more. He has enjoyed popular and critical success. Through it all, he has suffered from tinnitus, a common affliction for rock stars, that involves a persistent ringing in the ears, more often than not connected with some degree of hearing loss. I always wondered if his “back to acoustic” direction in the 90’s was because of his hearing problems.
Most musicians owe their hearing damage to loud music over the span of many years. Brian Wilson has had little to no hearing in his right ear since his early days.
He has, in interviews gone back and forth saying the hearing loss came because of a beating from his father.
Despite it all, he orchestrated one of the most sonically gorgeous albums of all time, The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds.”
All with only one working ear. It’s one reason he always mixed everything to mono. Stereo is pretty useless to a guy who only hears from one side of his head. Bob Dylan was a big fan of Brian Wilson’s one ear, saying: “Jesus, look at that ear. He should donate it to the Smithsonian.”
So it’s not always the guys bashing it out on stage that are susceptible. George Martin, of course, is quite possibly the most famous producer in the world because of his work with The Beatles. He had a very big influence on the group (especially in the early Beatle period) , and really, to me is the one or two guys who can actually claim the title of “Fifth Beatle” that about 20 odd people seem to want to name themselves. But George Martin was recently forced to retire because his ears lost the precise touch that made the producer so famous. His son Giles seems to have his dad’s old ears and is taking up where he left off.
Clapton made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times, the only artist to accomplish this feat. From The Yardbirds, Cream and Derek & The Dominoes, Clapton has made a name for himself obviously as well. Around the year 2000 he admitted to having incessant tinnitus and says he listens to very little music while not playing himself to try to keep what he has left. He lived hard, he rocked hard, and now he’s hard of hearing.
Ryan Adams is an American alt-country/ rock singer and songwriter, if you are not familiar with him. But you should be, he’s good. By the way, not the Canadian BRYAN ADAMS….
He started off in a band called Whiskytown, then went solo for a while then started a band called The Cardinals. He quit the music business around 2008 stating that he had tinnitus and a debilitating case of a little known condition called Meniere’s disease.
Meniere’s can not only cause hearing loss but with many it is accompanied with vertigo. It’s an inner ear issue that’s difficult to treat.
He fought it since early 2000, and at first thought he was having “stage fright”, when in actuality it was the vertigo from the disease making him extremely uncomfortable.
Fortunately, he has it under control and is back on the scene since 2010.
He has Oscars, Grammys and Golden Globes, Phil Collins owns an impressive array of trophies. After being the drummer, then lead singer for Genesis, , Collins enjoyed a long-lasting solo career. Unfortunately, he announced recently that he would no longer tour, citing a hearing condition that has plagued him for years.
TOMMY CAN YOU HEAR ME?
Being the world’s loudest rock band gave all four members of The Who lifelong battles with auditory problems, an issue most problematic with Townshend. The loud music, in conjunction with an infatuation with smashing instruments, has given the rock star a debilitating case of hearing loss. He blames one particular infamous performance on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour where Keith Moon thought it would be better to add MORE explosives to his drums without telling the other members. It was loud. And Pete seems to think that was the beginning of his issues. Townsend has complained for a long time of a debilitating case of hearing loss.
At one point during live Who shows he would only play an acoustic guitar because of it. That changed after a few years and the electric one was back on his shoulder.
“Hope I go deaf before I get old”.
I have played in rock and roll bands since I was 15. Yes….It’s inevitable that I have lost a little of the high-end frequency in my left ear. And like Ryan Adams, I have dealt with Meniere’s disease as well. It’s no fun, but I do have it under control.
The weird thing about having any hearing loss is how mad people get at you. If you have trouble hearing (especially in a loud ambient room) people get hacked off when they have to repeat themselves. I always wondered if they would be that rude if someone had sight problems, or another condition.
People don’t seem to get mad at somebody if they can’t see a picture from an iPhone or something, but if you can’t hear them they seem to get agitated and hostile.
Then again, there are certain people I really don’t want to listen to anyway.