According to the Hearing Health Foundation, “musicians are 400% more likely to have a hearing loss and 57% more likely to have tinnitus than the general public.”
If you are a performer, it’s important to not only wear hearing protection while playing, but to get regular check-ups and give your ears a rest from time to time. It can be tempting to think tinnitus won't happen to you, especially when music is a big part of your life.
But take it from these music legends- take care of your hearing now before it's too late.
The Coldplay frontman has been in bands since he was in middle school, and started developing tinnitus after years of performing for adoring fans. “Looking after your ears is unfortunately something you don’t think about until there’s a problem. I wish I’d thought about it earlier," he's said.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman wrote in his memoir Scar Tissue that he began hearing a constant ringing after a 1993 concert tour. “We played a giant airplane hangar of a room, and once again Nirvana went out and destroyed with their set, and the kids went insane. That night was the beginning of my ongoing battle with Tinnitus. By the end of that tour, I’d have permanent ear damage, which, unfortunately, is one of the hardest things to cure.”
Metallica has been destroying crowds and flying the flag for heavy metal for over four decades. But the band's drummer admits that he never used to play with any kind of hearing protection. Ulrich said his tinnitus got so bad, he would wake up in the middle of the night to turn off the TV...only it was already off. "I try to point out to younger kids ... once your hearing is gone, it's gone, and there's no real remedy," he's said.
Barbra Streisand first began sharing her experience with phantom sounds in 1985. After years of suffering in silence for fear of what her prognosis might be, Streisand finally saw an audiologist to help manage her tinnitus symptoms and make sure it doesn't hold her back from doing what she loves.
Clapton is renowned for more than just his iconic guitar skills. He was also known to turn up the volume as loud as it could go, even in the studio. Somewhat unsurprisingly, he revealed his tinnitus diagnosis in 2018, but vowed to continue performing. “It was my own doing — being irresponsible and thinking I was invincible ... Take care and wear plugs."
Noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus often go hand in hand, especially for performers working in loud environments. As the Black Eyed Peas frontman and The Voice judge, will.i.am has finally accepted his experience with both. “I don’t know what silence sounds like any more. Music is the only thing which eases my pain….I can’t be quiet as that’s when I notice the ringing in my ears...I don’t know exactly how long I’ve had this but it gradually got worse.”
In case you needed more proof that hearing damage isn't just for old people, Grimes has had to cancel several shows as early as 2012 because of her tinnitus symptoms. She was just 24 years old at the time. But she suffered hearing loss from going to shows, even before her own music career. "I suffered permanent hearing loss from that show! I pressed my ears on the speakers and I couldn't hear for nearly two days, and I get really sharp pain in my ears now."
At one point, The Who held the Guinness World Records for The World's Loudest band. But guitarist Pete Townsend considered ending the band after the effects of tinnitus became too overwhelming. “If my hearing is going to be a problem, we're not delaying shows – we're finished,” Townshend told Rolling Stone. That was until fellow rock n' roll veteran, Neil Young, recommended he see his audiologist to help manage his symptoms. After taking a long break, the effects subsided enough that the band was able to continue touring.
After year of touring with his infamously loud band, Neil Young developed tinnitus. He says his hearing was permanently damaged in 1991 after mixing Crazy Horse's live concert album, 'Weld'. Since then, he’s taken measures to avoid further damage. “I made 'Harvest Moon' because I didn't want to hear any loud sounds. I still have a little bit of tinnitus, but fortunately now I'm not as sensitive to loud sounds as I was for a year after mixing 'Weld'."
The Prince of Darkness & heavy metal legend has always lived life on the edge. In his journey from Black Sabbath to his solo career to reality TV, he neglected his hearing health; now paying the price. As he said in an interview with The Sunday Times, “I suffer from permanent tinnitus… which means I've got this constant ringing in my ears... It's like this 'Whee!!' noise in my head all the time. Should have worn ear plugs."
While playing music live is one of the most joyful activities in the world, it can come at a cost. Take it from some of music's biggest legends: protect your hearing now so you don't pay the price later. Whether you are a musician who wants to preserve your hearing or a fan who just needs earplugs for concerts, check out EARPEACE's Music earplugs.