5 Rock Stars With Hearing Loss

April is International Guitar Month and when I think of guitars I think of rock and roll. My first thought never goes to classical guitar or flamenco guitar or jazz guitar. It really doesn’t even go to acoustic guitar….that would be my second thought about guitar. My first thought is the big, loud, rock and roll sound of an electric guitar. Any era of rock from 1950s sort of rockabilly sound to 1960s psychedelic sound to 1970s classic rock sound to 1980 hair band sound to 1990s grunge rock sound to 2000s alternative rock sound…you get the idea.

Did you know that hearing loss is the number one disability in the world? And that it is also the most preventable disability? Did you know that 60% of the musicians inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame suffer from hearing loss that was preventable? Those are big statistics, folks.

In honor of International Guitar Month, here is a list of some famous guitar players who also suffer from hearing loss as well as some advice about noise-induced hearing loss.

Neil Young

Neil Young

  • Neil Young is one of the all-time greatest musicians and songwriters contributing creating over 30 unique albums over a career spanning from the mid 1960’s til now. Neil has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame twice; once in 1995 for his solo work and again in 1997 with Buffalo Springfield. Neil stated that his 1992 album Harvest Moon, with it’s sound reminiscent of his early softer acoustic and folk rock sound, was made so that he “didn’t have to hear loud music”.

    Pete Townshend of The Who

    Pete Townshend of The Who

  • Pete Townsend has experienced hearing loss as a result of his career with the iconic rock band, The Who. Pete says, “I have severe hearing damage. It’s manifested itself as tinnitus, ringing in the ears at frequencies that I play guitar. It hurts, it’s painful, and it’s frustrating”. He is also is completely deaf in one ear from an explosion when Keith Moon blew up his drum set live on stage in the early 1960’s.

    Eric Clapton

    Eric Clapton

  • Eric Clapton has been said to be the most influential guitar player of all time. That may or may not be true but he is the only triple inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame first in 1992 with The Yardbirds, then in 1993 with Cream, and finally in 2000 for his solo work plus receiving 18 Grammy awards. For much of his career he played with two 100 watt Marshall stacks and maxed out volume. Thankfully, his hearing loss does not seem to be worsening but he says, “I started using Fender Deluxe Reverb amps and 50-watt Marshalls around ’97, after I started having some problems with tinnitus. It was my own doing — being irresponsible and thinking I was invincible…take care and wear (ear) plugs.”

    Ozzy Osbourne

    Ozzy Osbourne

  • Ozzy Osbourn isn’t a guitar player but there is no denying his influence on loud, guitar-laden heavy metal music. Years of touring with Black Sabbath and during a solo career have left an indelible mark on Ozzy and his ability to hear. He says, “I suffer from permanent tinnitus…which means I’ve got this constant ringing in my ears, which has also made me somewhat deaf (or ‘conveniently deaf,’ as Sharon calls it). It’s like this ‘Whee!’ noise in my head all the time. Should have worn earplugs, I guess”. Should have worn earplugs is an understatement but it certainly would have helped!

    Jeff Beck

    Jeff Beck

  • Jeff Beck is an accomplished guitar player with two hit solo albums as well as considerable contributions to other acts such as Mick Jagger, Donovan, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Jon BonJovi, ZZ Top and more. He is ranked 5th in Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time being described as “one of the most influential lead guitarists in rock”. About his tinnitus, Beck says, “It’s in my left ear. It’s excruciating. I mean, it’s the worst thing…”.

Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by sudden loud sounds or it can develop over time by repeated exposure to loud noise. And it’s not just rock musicians and rock concerts. Even orchestra musicians and attendees can be exposed to prolonged loud sounds. Hearing loss starts with repeated exposure to sounds above 85 decibels and an orchestra peaks somewhere between 120 – 137 decibels while a rock concert tops out around 150 decibels.

These loud sounds damage the microscopic hairs inside your ears and, once damaged, there is no known remedy to repair the damage. Take care of your ears whether you are a musician or a music lover. Wear proper ear gear when playing or listening to music. The technology for protecting your ears has come a long way…take advantage of it and you may, quite possibly, still have your hearing for years to come.

Noise-induced hearing loss can affect anyone. It is preventable but if you feel you or a loved one may have already damaged hearing, take our quick hearing screening and contact us to see what’s next.

Since the last week in April is National Karaoke Week, when you are pretending to be a rock star in a crowded and noisy karaoke bar, do yourself a favor….wear earplugs!!

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