Rock Musicians with Hearing Aids

It may come as a shock, but there are a number of rock music legends now in need of hearing aids. How long-term exposure to high-decibel amplified music — and an uncounted number of pyrotechnical explosions — led to this is anyone’s guess.

Recently announcing a year-long sabbatical at the age of 72, The Who’s Pete Townshend — for a solid decade his band held the Guinness Book of Records top mark for the loudest concert — is now almost deaf, suffering both partial deafness and tinnitus. In 1989 Townshend helped to found H.E.A.R. (Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers), a non-profit hearing advocacy group, and has struggled to continue working due to his hearing loss over the last two decades.

One strategy Townshend has used in order to continue performing is thanks to another rocker with hearing issues. Neil Young introduced him to in-ear monitors (IEMs), which Young had started to use to deal with his tinnitus. They are basically hearing aids on steroids, specialized earpieces that are fed audio via the sound mixing board at concerts or in the studio. Young has said that some of his more acoustic works, including Harvest Moon, were made in part to give his ears a rest from his louder electric work.

Like Townshend, another English rock legend, Eric Clapton, also has both significant hearing loss and tinnitus in both ears. He says that these days he listens to classical music, in part so that he can keep his hearing.

And in a truly shocking development, Ozzy Osbourne — the lead singer of heavy metal icons Black Sabbath before his second life as a reality TV show star — suffers from serious hearing loss. He’s shared publicly (this is what the Osbourne’s do) his adventures with hearing aids.