As hearing care professionals, we are too familiar with the impact of long-term exposure to loud music and headphone usage. There are many stories of musicians facing the effects, such as tinnitus sufferers, Will I Am of the Black Eyed Peas, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Eric Clapton and Neil Young, just to name a few.
Chris Martin works with the U.K.’s Action on Hearing Loss to promote hearing protection. His own tinnitus symptoms at a very young age included ear ringing and painful headaches. He now wears ear protection at his concerts to prevent further hearing damage, as well as promoting the use to others including his own children. Mr. Martin is quoted as saying. “Looking after your ears is unfortunately something you don’t think about until there’s a problem. I’ve had tinnitus for about 10 years, and since I started protecting my ears it hasn’t got any worse (touch wood). But I wish I’d thought about it earlier. Now we always use moulded filter plugs, or in-ear monitors, to try and protect our ears.”
Pete Townshend of The Who, who suffers from noised-induced hearing loss and tinnitus and wears two hearing aids, spoke about his condition in late 2012 on the David Letterman Show (David Letterman also suffers from tinnitus). Mr. Townshend’s tinnitus started first with “peeps”, “beeps” and “whistles”, much like birds singing in the morning he first thought. His headphone use during song writing also contributed to his hearing loss as well as the famous Keith Moon drum explosion on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967.
You may be surprised to know that aside from the famous composer, Beethoven, there are other deaf musicians finding success. Hip-hop with its rhythmic beats is growing in popularity. Sean Forbes is an example of an American hip-hop artist who is deaf. A recent SPIN article calls him the most successful deaf rapper in the world. His first video on YouTube titled “I’m Deaf” had over 500,000 views and a second video, “Let’s Mambo”, which featured Marlee Matlin, had almost 250,000 views . From Forbes’ website: “With his passion for music, Sean has opened the door to musical expression – a world historically considered off limits to people in the deaf community. His dream of music for all has helped to transform the way deaf people perceive music. Through his videos and his outreach to deaf people everywhere – particularly young people eager to feel included in popular culture – music is being presented to them as a beautiful symphony of thought and expression, available to all.”