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Living a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle may be glamorous, but it can take a serious toll on your health. Sustained exposure to loud music (or any sound) can damage your ears and it’s no surprise that musicians, who perform for a living, are often the culprit.

We’ve already written about Pete Townshend of The Who, of The Black-Eyed Peas, Phil Collins of Genesis, and Bono of U2.  Here are a few more iconic voices who’ve experienced some form of hearing loss:


Sting (The Police):

Sting, well-known for his solo career as well as for his early membership in The Police, has become an activist ever since developing hearing loss, undertaking the role of celebrity ambassador and supporter for the Hear The World campaign.

Roger Daltrey (The Who):

Along with co-founder Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey of The Who developed hearing loss as result of performing, although to a lesser degree than his counterpart.  He admits that being unable to hear his own voice when singing is troubling, but Daltrey seems more concerned about Townshend’s problems than his own: “There’s nobody I’d rather be on stage with than Pete,” he has said, “But equally, I don’t want to be on stage with him destroying the last bit of his hearing. That would be completely foolish. He’s a composer.”

Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath):

Ozzy Osbourne, whose name is virtually synonymous with loudness, currently holds the Guinness world record for the longest crowd scream (it lasted one minute and eight seconds and registered at over 105 decibels.)  It’s not surprising then, after decades of performing that Osbourne should suffer from hearing loss.  What IS surprising is how slight the extent is.  Geneticists are actually studying Osbourne’s genes to determine why his notorious drug abuse and body-ravaging lifestyle haven’t damaged him even more.


Neil Young (Crazy Horse):

Author of over 30 albums and two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Neil Young’s turn towards softer, gentler music in the ‘90s is widely held to be a result of his growing difficulties with tinnitus, a type of hearing loss marked by a constant single-pitch ringing in the ears.  Young attributes his problems to the live album “Weld,” which he recorded with his band Crazy Horse early in his career.

Eric Clapton (Cream):

Eric Clapton, best known as an original member of Cream, believes that his early days of performing are responsible for the tinnitus he now suffers.  “I probably had two 100-watt stacks at the height of things and I would turn one on for guitar solos,” he says. “It was just mad!”

Jeff Beck (The Yardbirds):

Jeff Beck, whose sparkling career began in the ‘60s when he was tapped as the new lead guitarist for The Yardbirds, also suffers from tinnitus.  He was recently ranked 14th Greatest Guitarist of All Time by Rolling Stone Magazine.  Of his condition Beck has said, “Why is [tinnitus] such a horrible sound? Well, can you 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!”


Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys):

Unlike many of the musicians on this list, Brian Wilson’s hearing problems are congenital: he is almost completely deaf in his right ear. Despite his lifelong disability, as a composer his work is renowned for its harmonic complexity and inexplicable sweetness.

Other Celebrities and Hearing Loss

Although many celebrities have gone on record about their hearing loss, many more have not addressed the subject.  Rumored artists include Cher, Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and many more.

by Veronica Mittnacht

8 responses to “Musicians and Hearing Loss

  1. is there any help for a musician who has lost a considerable amount of hearing (aids in both ears), particularly the ability to discriminate among pitches at various frequency levels?

  2. My tinnitus is loud and continuous. I attended many rock concerts usually near the stage or speaker columns and left some venues almost deaf, taking several days to recover. I’m looking at you Led Zeppelin. Flo and Eddie too. Lee Michaels.
    Then I worked several jobs with noisy areas and I met a safety manager who gave me some earplugs that really worked, still use ’em but the damage is done.


  3. B.Bowen. I too have found your comments to be true. I think the hearing aid companies and Audiologists are more concerned with turning a tidy profit, rather than addressing our queries as hearing impaired musicians. I have found most Audiologists and hearing aid manufactures to be more interested in fitting/manufacturing a hearing aid that is quick and easy for them, rather than what is best for us as musicians. We can split the atom, put 12 men on the moon, map the human genome and so the list goes on, but we can’t come up with a hearing aid for musicians, pffft!

  4. My name is Tony. I have suffered from hearing loss since birth. My loss is severe in my left ear and moderate in the right one. I wear hearing aids in both ears. I have had an active interest in music since I was a lad in the 60’s. Despite all those who knew me, constantly telling me I would never be able to play a musical instrument because I am “deaf.” I managed to learn to play the guitar, keyboards and bass guitar, all self taught. I have played in several bands and continue to do so. I have had significant difficulty getting Audiologists, to take my musical interests seriously, and to get them to set up my hearing aids to suit my hearing loss, accordingly. Most Audiologists can’t be bothered putting the extra time into programming my hearing aids to include not only speech frequencies, but, also musical frequencies. I am at present dealing with a magnificent Audiologist, who is willing to accept that I am indeed a hearing impaired muso, and as such, he has been very co-operative with setting up my hearing aids, so as to be able to hear music as clearly as is possible given my loss.
    I have found most Australian Audiologists, do not consider a deaf/hearing impaired musician worth the trouble, why would a deaf person want to play a musical instrument, any more the a blind person might want to learn to paint, is their general attitude towards me!
    I have found most Audiological support services who are responsible for the fitting and programming of my hearing aids to be more of a hinderance, than my actual hearing loss when it comes to hearing music.
    To my current Audiologist, I am most grateful to you for your understanding, consideration and patience with me, you are a very rare individual. Thank you Andrej.

  5. As a tinnitus sufferer I would be interested to know how the high profile stars deal with it. I struggle and find it debilitating. Does Keith Richards and Bob Dylan have it too??

    1. Hi Garegh – The high profile stars deal with tinnitus the same as everyone else. Because there is no cure for tinnitus, hearing aids are recommended to bring to light sounds that you might be missing whilst simultaneously drowning out the ringing in your ear. Hope this helps!

  6. Wow B.Brown’s question/post was made almost a year ago and no comments or responses. Sad. To answer your question B.Brown – I would geuss not. I’d be really interrested in Audicus’s opinion – but they have remained silent for a year and counting.

  7. OK. So can anyone offer a hearing aid that actually works for musicians? I have been searching for 9 years and have not really found a digital aid that works very well because these aids are design with speech and noise cancellation in mind. All but one brand I have tried had distortion problems and it failed for other reasons. A musician needs a product that is designed to handle live music- speech is secondary.

    There are quite a few hearing impaired musicians that share this opinion. Many have used analog hearing aids with better success than with digital aids. Also, they share the experience of having better luck with the older models of digital aids before the manufactures started putting so many noise cancellation functions in them.

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