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Paul Simon, 81, Reveals How He Copes With Hearing Loss

The singer has a hot documentary, ‘In Restless Dreams,’ and a soulful new album

spinner image paul simon playing an acoustic guitar onstage during the homeward bound a grammy salute to the songs of paul simon at the hollywood pantages theatre in hollywood california
Paul Simon performs during "Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute to the Songs of Paul Simon" at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, California.
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

At 81, Paul Simon is on a roll, with a new album, Seven Psalms, the most spiritually questing music he’s ever made, and a documentary about his life, In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon, which premiered to acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival Sept. 10 and may be released in 2023.

He wants to go on tour to promote the new record, but he’s not sure he can, because he’s lost hearing in his left ear. Hearing loss plagues musicians Huey Lewis, 73, Pete Townshend, 78, Roger Daltrey, 79, Eric Clapton, 78, and many other celebrities.

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“I’m going to try and work with two guitarists who will play the parts that I played on the record and see if I can sing,” he told the Toronto audience.  “Mostly this is a test of my hearing. I’m not sure how I can integrate my voice with the guitars, but I’ll have a chance to revisit the piece.

“Usually when I finished an album in the past, I went out and toured with it, and then that gives you the opportunity to really investigate the piece of work. But in this case that’s not likely to happen — although I hope it will happen. A difficulty is when I have to sing with other instruments. Drums or electric guitars I can’t [sing with] — but I can with the [acoustic] guitar.”

spinner image paul simon holding a microphone onstage at the in restless dreams the music of paul simon premiere at the 2023 toronto international film festival
Paul Simon onstage at the "In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon" premiere during the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto.
Brian de Rivera Simon/Getty Images

Simon also opened up about the emotional challenges of adapting to loss. “I have been hoping that I adjust to it. I am learning from it. I haven’t accepted it quickly, but I’m beginning to. The thing that’s really frustrating is that I play the guitar every day. It’s the instrument that allows me to express myself creatively. But it’s also where I go for solace. If I’m — whatever — temporarily wounded by my life, it’s a very crucial thing to me.”

Simon is aware that he’s not alone in his hearing loss, given that countless fans have been cranking up his tunes to 11 on the stereo since 1965.

“I’m sure many people in the audience will know what I’m talking about. You know, something happens to you when you have some sort of disability that changes your awareness, or changes how you interact with the facts of life. I don’t know if I can explain past that, but you just see things from a different perspective, and you’re surprised by the change.”

The point, he says, is to be open to change in life, and he’s proven lately that his disability doesn’t preclude creativity and new discoveries. “I don’t know that I can say what it is that I’ve learned, but I’m getting new information in a way that is new to me, and I’m digesting it. Because that’s the way my mind works.”

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