They’re Just Like Us! Celebrities with Tinnitus and How They Cope
Some days with tinnitus can be tough. Experiencing constant ringing in your ears can be incredibly difficult for anyone. There can also be numerous causes of tinnitus which can sometimes be hard to pinpoint.
However, sometimes it can help knowing that you’re not alone. It’s estimated that over 50 million Americans have tinnitus, including some very well-known celebrities. Here are some celebrities with tinnitus and how they deal with their symptoms.
One of the most loved musicians in Canada, Neil Young has expressed his experiences having tinnitus. Born November 12, 1945 in Ontario, Canada, Young has worked numerous roles throughout his career, including musician, producer, singer-songwriter, humanitarian, director, screenwriter, entrepreneur and even inventor.
Young has received several Grammy and Juno awards and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted him twice, as both a member of Buffalo Springfield and as a solo artist.
While mixing his live concert album “Weld” Young believes it affected his hearing. “I hurt my ears and they’ll never be the same again.” He’s also said that his subsequent acoustic album Harvest Moon was created because Young wanted to give his ears a rest from loud noise.
Born William James Adams Jr. on March 15, 1975 in California, USA, will.i.am is a rapper, singer, songwriter, DJ, record producer, actor and philanthropist. Although he has success in various roles, will.i.am is best known for being a lead member of The Black Eyed Peas, a hip-hop group.
As a music producer, will.i.am has worked with other famous artists including Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, U2, Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Justin Timberlake. Unfortunately, after prolonged exposure to loud noise, will.i.am now experiences fairly severe tinnitus. “I can’t be still. Work calms me down,” said Will. “I can’t be quiet, as that’s when I notice the ringing in my ears. There’s always a beep there every day, all day. Like now. I don’t know exactly how long I’ve had this, but it’s gradually got worse.”
Lars Ulrich, born December 26, 1963 in Denmark, is a musician, songwriter, actor and record producer. Ulrich is best known as the drummer and co-founder of Metallica, a heavy-metal band formed in 1981. Being part of Metallica for so many years, it’s not hard to imagine that Ulrich developed tinnitus after being exposed to loud music for so long. “I’ve been playing loud rock music for the better part of 35 years,” said Ulrich. “I never used to play with any kind of protection.” Unfortunately for Ulrich, he now experiences constant ringing in the ears. “It never sort of goes away. It never just stops.”
When Metallica members were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, Ulrich was the first Dane to be inducted. He was also knighted in Denmark and was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog. Even with all his success and awards, Ulrich still deals with this tinnitus condition.
Born Kate Victoria Tunstall on 23 June 1975, KT Tunstall is a Scottish singer-songwriter and musician from Edinburgh. Working as a musician, singer and songwriter, Kate first broke onto the scene in 2000, and has since released six albums internationally.
She actually first noticed ringing in her ears after attending a Spice Girls concert and was seated very close to the large speakers. Now, after performing for years, her tinnitus symptoms are even more noticeable. “It really affected my hearing certain tones,” she said. “It can affect the top frequency of that ear’s hearing when it’s very loud.”
Known professionally as Alex Trebek, George Alexander Trebek was born July 22, 1940 and is famous as the host of the popular game show Jeopardy! since it was rebooted in 1984.
Although originally from Ontario, Canada, Trebek became a naturalized United States citizen and is set to host Jeopardy! until 2022. It’s unclear what brought on his tinnitus symptoms, but it’s been widely publicized that he suffers from the condition.
Peter Townshend, born 19 May 1945, is famously known for his role in the rock band the Who. Born in England, Townshend’s musical career with the Who spans over 50 years, during which time the band grew to be considered one of the most important and influential rock bands of the 20th century.
Unfortunately Townshend suffers from partial deafness and tinnitus after repeated and prolonged exposure to extremely loud noise. A Who concert in London in 1976 was listed as the “Loudest Concert Ever” by the Guinness Book of Records. Unfortunately, musicians didn’t normally use any protection against the loud music in previous years, but many have suffered later in life because of it. “I have severe hearing damage” he said. “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”
Barbra Streisand is one of the most famous and awarded American celebrities. Born in April 24, 1942 in New York City, Streisand has been successful as a singer, songwriter, actress and filmmaker.
In over 60 years, she has received numerous prestigious awards: two Academy Awards, ten Grammy Awards (including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the Grammy Legend Award) five Emmy Awards, a Special Tony Award, an American Film Institute award, a Kennedy Center Honors prize, four Peabody Awards,the Presidential Medal of Freedom,and nine Golden Globes.
Even with all her fame and talent, Streisand still suffers from tinnitus, as do over 50 million Americans.
In an interview with Barbara Walters, Streisand spoke about developing tinnitus as a child, but learned how to manage her symptoms over time.
Professionally known as Sting, Gordon Sumner is an English musician, singer, songwriter and actor. Sting is best known as the lead singer, songwriter and bassist for the Police before launching a solo career. Winning 16 Grammy Awards, Sting also became one of the world’s best-selling music artists with the Police.
Like many other musicians who have been exposed to loud noises for extended periods of time, Sting has talked openly about his hearing loss and tinnitus symptoms. When speaking with Sirius XM’s Artists Confidential, he said, “I’m fairly deaf and ‘what?’ is my favorite word.”
Even one of the most famous American astronauts isn’t protected against tinnitus.
Alan Shepard Jr., born November 18, 1923, was an American astronaut who became the first American to travel into space in 1961 and walked on the moon in 1971.
Shepard had been training for the first Gemini flight in 1964 when he contracted Meniere’s disease, an inner-ear condition which causes deafness, tinnitus and loss of balance. NASA immediately removed Shepard from the Gemini program and appointed him Chief of the Astronaut Office instead.
After an incredible career and personal life, he later died in 1998 at the age of 74.
Born March 22, 1931, William Shatner is a Canadian actor, author, producer, director and singer. Famously known as James T. Kirk, captain of the USS Enterprise in the Star Trek, Shatner has had a long and successful career.
As an author, he’s written books chronicling his experiences playing Captain Kirk and being a part of Star Trek, as well as co-written novels set in the Star Trek universe.
Shatner has been very public about experiencing tinnitus, which he began to suffer symptoms in the early 1990s and began involved with the American Tinnitus Association. He manages the bulk of his symptoms by wearing a small electronic device that generates a low-level white-noise sound that allows the him to divert his attention away from the tinnitus sounds.
Michael Trent Reznor is best known as the founder, songwriter and primary musician behind Nine Inch Nails. Originally founded in 1988, Nine Inch Nails is a industrial rock band that often plays incredibly loud during live shows, so it’s not a surprise he may exhibit tinnitus symptoms. Many of his songs also include heavy guitar, drums and bass sections that could have contributed to this condition over time.
It’s well-known now that long exposure to loud noises and music can damage hearing and potentially lead to tinnitus. Unfortunately for many musicians, this wasn’t largely publicized previously. Many musicians on this list have suffered hearing loss after not wearing ear protection during live shows and recording albums.
Even though he deals with tinnitus, he’s gone on to score numerous movies, such as The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) and Gone Girl.
Burton Reynolds Jr., born February 11, 1936, was an incredibly popular American actor. He first gained the spotlight by acting in TV shows like Gunsmoke and Hawk in the early-mid 1960s, before moving into movie roles. After dealing with tinnitus for most of his life, Reynolds died September 6, 2018 at the age of 82.
Keanu Reeves has a long list of blockbuster films he’s acted in, such as The Matrix, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, John Wick and Speed. Although born in Lebanon to an English mother and American father, Reeves grew up in Canada and identifies as Canadian.
It’s been reported that Reeves has dealt with tinnitus in his left ear, potentially brought on by working in high-intensity action movies. Unfortunately this isn’t uncommon for actors who spend a lot of time with on action movie sets.
Later, in 1983, he became the first sitting president to wear hearing aids. By talking openly about his hearing loss and his use of hearing aids, Reagan helped reduce the stigma associated with hearing loss. He even declared May 1986 as “Better Hearing and Speech Month,” bringing the issue of hearing health into the spotlight.
Andrew Partridge is an English singer, songwriter, and record producer who co-founded the rock band XTC created in England in 1972. He is sometimes regarded as the “godfather” of Britpop after his contributions to the music scene.
In an interview in 2016, Partridge was quoted as saying that developing tinnitus was his biggest regret in life. Apparently an engineer pressed the wrong button while he was checking a supposedly silent loop at full volume. He said it “generated a click track that went off like gunshots in my head. It left me with extreme tinnitus that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I contemplated suicide, just to stop it. This was ten years ago now.”
With the type of music associated with Ozzy Osbourne, it’s not a huge surprise he developed tinnitus.
Born John Osbourne in December 1948, he was the lead vocalist of the heavy metal band Black Sabbath. Even though it was eventually fired from the group in the late 1970s due to drug and alcohol problems, he still had success as a solo artist.
He described his tinnitus symptoms: “It’s like this ‘whee!’ noise in my head all the time. Should have worn earplugs, I guess.”
Like many other musicians, Osbourne did not wear protective hearing equipment during live shows and his hearing has suffered as a result of it.
Leonard Nimoy was an American actor best known for his role as Spock of the Star Trek franchise. Just like his co-star William Shatner also on our list, Nimoy suffers from tinnitus symptoms. There was speculation that they both developed tinnitus onset after an explosion for a scene took place very close to them. While this hasn’t been confirmed, it may have contributed to their symptoms.
Nimoy was honoured for his acting career with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He died in California in 2015 at the age of 83.
Like many other musicians, Moby also suffers from tinnitus. He’s been quoted as saying his tinnitus developed after never wearing hearing protection when playing live gigs. He would often come home with ringing ears and the sensation would continue for days and days.
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet in Florence. Often considered one of the greatest artists of all time, his work has greatly influenced many areas of Western life. His work didn’t remain just in one field, but spread across many. He sculpted the famous David statue while also painting one of the most influential frescoes in the history of Western art: the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Among all this, it’s known that Michelangelo suffered from tinnitus.
Stephen Martin is a famous American actor, comedian, writer, producer and musician. He first came to prominence as a writer in the 1960 before focusing more on comedy routines in the 70s. He also had a successful career as an actor and playwright and musician. Comedy Central even ranked Martin as the 6th greatest stand-up comic in 2004. However, even with all his success, it’s been reported that Martin deals with tinnitus symptoms as well.
David Letterman, born April 12, 1947, is best known as a late night television talk show host, which he successfully did for 33 years. In addition, he’s worked as a comedian, writer and producer. In total, Letterman hosted over 6,000 episodes of Late Night and Late Show,surpassing Johnny Carson as the longest-serving late night talk show host in American television history. After such a successful career, numerous other hosts and comics have cited Letterman as a influence and mentor, such as Conan O’Brien and Stephen Colbert.
Even though he’s had such a successful and influential career, Letterman suffers from ringing in the ears. He discussed his symptoms on the Late Show in the mid-90s with actor William Shatner. Letterman said at first he couldn’t understand where the sound was coming from but that he now hears the ringing most days.
Even one of the most successful and powerful men in US history couldn’t avoid developing tinnitus. Howard Hughes Jr., born December 24, 1905 was an American business magnate, investor, record-setting pilot, engineer,film director, and philanthropist. He was credited as one of the most financially successful individuals in the world.
It’s believed that he may have developed hearing loss and tinnitus due to his experience flying in open cockpit planes with high amounts of noise with the combination of possible drug use.
Geoffrey Beck is an English rock guitarist and one of the most influential guitarists in history.
Rolling Stone ranked Beck fifth in their list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” and described him as “one of the most influential lead guitarists in rock.”
Like many other musicians on the list, Beck suffers through tinnitus symptoms. For him, interrupted sleep was one of the most debilitating side effects. “There’s been a major improvement, although it does bug me incredibly from time to time. But for me – this is personally – it’s definitely in proportion to the quality of sleep. The poorer the quality of sleep, the louder the tinnitus, and the more troublesome.” After seeking treatment in London, he says he’s been making positive strides.
Few people don’t know the name Ludwig van Beethoven, but many don’t realize that he suffered from tinnitus. A German composer and pianist, Beethoven credited his hearing loss from a fit 1798. His hearing never fully recovered and was made worse by severe tinnitus. He wrote to friends explaining his tinnitus symptoms and the issues it caused in both professionally and socially.
Scottish actor Gerard Butler also deals with tinnitus. Famous for his roles in the Phantom of the Opera, 300 and Law Abiding Citizen, Butler spoke about having ear surgery when he was a child that left him with a mangled ear. Afterwards, he still suffers from tinnitus and partial hearing loss in his right ear.
Eric Clapton, born 30 March 1945, is one of the most celebrated rock and blues guitarists. From Surrey, England, he is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, once as a solo artist, once as a member of the Yardbirds and another time for the group Cream. He’s been ranked highly on numerous lists, including Rolling Stone’s 2003 list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time where he was ranked second, next only to Jimi Hendrix.
He spoke with BBC Radio 2 about his hearing loss and tinnitus symptoms. “I’m concerned with now is being in my 70s and being able to be proficient. I mean, I’m going deaf, I’ve got tinnitus, my hands just about work.”
Philip Collins has numerous roles associated to his name, from drumming and singing to songwriting, record producing and acting. He’s best known for his drumming and singing as the rock band Genesis, but also was successful as a solo artist.
During the end of a concert, Collins announced an end to his concert touring because of hearing loss. He said he will perform live only occasionally to avoid further hearing loss on his hearing damaged left ear.
Charles Darwin, born 2 February 1809, was best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. Darwin was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist and his work in these fields have continued to influence modern day life.
Daniel Elfman is best known as a successful American composer and record producer. He has worked on numerous projects with director Tim Burton where Elfman has often scored his movies.
Before getting into scoring movies and TV shows, Elfman was part of a rock group which he believes contributed to his tinnitus symptoms. After playing on stage every night in front of giant speakers, the prolonged exposure to loud noise has contributed to his hearing loss and tinnitus, which he still suffers from.
Vincent van Gogh, born 30 March 1853, was a Dutch painter and listed as one of the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In just over a decade, he created about 2,100 artworks that sell for millions today. Unfortunately, Van Gogh wasn’t successful during his lifetime and committed suicide at 37 years old, after years of mental illness and poverty.
Like Alan Shepherd who also made out list, it’s beleive Van Gogh also suffered from Meniere’s disease. It’s also known that he suffered from tinnitus as a result, which he described as ringing or roaring in the ears, as well as hearing loss and intolerance of loud sounds.
Christopher Martinis an English singer and musician, best known as the lead singer and co-founder of the rock band Coldplay. Unfortunately like many other musicians, Martin didn’t think about looking after his hearing health until he started experiencing negative symptoms.
Martin believes tinnitus developed due to listening to loud music as a teenager and now says the ringing in his ears and headaches had stabilised since he started protecting his ears.
“Looking after your ears is unfortunately something you don’t think about until there’s a problem,” he said to the Daily Mail. “I’ve had tinnitus for about ten years, and since I started protecting my ears it hasn’t got any worse. But I wish I’d thought about it earlier.”
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