When you think of careers that are conducive to hearing loss, which ones immediately come to mind? Racing car drivers? The military? Construction? Any trade that involves power tools?
Musicians, too, right? Especially rock and rollers. And bagpipers.
Sure enough, many professional musicians do have hearing loss. Or tinnitus. Often both. In fact, data suggests they’re up to four times more likely than the general public to suffer from hearing damage.
But who needs data to tell you that when musicians themselves are vocal about it?
Dave Grohl admits he has hearing loss
Earlier this year, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters fame added his name to the list of famous musicians with hearing loss, telling Howard Stern that he’s had hearing damage for years*.
“If you were sitting next to me, right here at dinner,” he said, pointing next to his left ear, “I wouldn’t understand a word you were saying, the whole time. In a crowded restaurant, that’s the worst.”
Masks, especially, have made it hard for him. “I’ve been reading lips for 20 years” he admitted to Stern. When people come up to him and talk to him while wearing a mask, he’s at a loss, reminding them, “I’m a rock musician. I’m deaf. I can’t hear what you’re saying.”
(Psst, if you're reading this, Dave, check out Starkey’s Evolv AI hearing aids, which were made for masks!)
Just the latest of many famous hearing-impaired rock and rollers
Grohl can rest assured he’s in good company. You could put together a band with the assorted rockers who’ve admitted to hearing loss, including:
Huey Lewis discussed how hearing loss and Menière’s disease cut his singing career short in a recent Starkey Sound Bites podcast.
Pete Townshend has talked about his hearing loss for decades, blaming it on studio headphones, not his band’s thunderous live music.
Roger Daltry confessed in a 2018 San Diego Union-Tribune article that he is “very, very deaf.”
Danny Elfman switched to composing soundtracks after fronting his band, Oingo Boingo, left him with hearing loss and tinnitus.
Mick Fleetwood has gone on record with his hearing loss, even participating in a “quiet” rock concert back in 2005 to raise awareness about hearing loss.
Sting has admitted to dealing with hearing loss, but so far has resisted getting hearing aids to help.
Alice Cooper proudly brags about wearing “clearing aids” to help him overcome the hearing impairment he got from “55 years of blaring loud rock music.”
And the list goes on. Fortunately, there’s much more awareness about the importance of hearing protection today than there was even 20 years ago, and hearing protection products continue getting better and more advanced.
That could be why there are fewer newer musicians with hearing damage. Though maybe we’ll need to get past my my my generation to know for sure.