Celebrities With Hearing Issues
They’re all talented, famous and among the 48 million Americans coping with loss
by AARP, Updated September 21, 2020
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Chris Martin, lead singer of Coldplay, has said he started noticing hearing loss at age 25, as well as tinnitus. “There’s no doubt it’s been caused by years of being on stage and subjected to very loud decibels of music,” he’s said. He’s supported a British campaign called Action on Hearing Loss.
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The actor says he’s had tinnitus for years, since he and costar Leonard Nimoy were exposed to the noise of an explosion on the set of one of their Star Trek movies: “We both got this ringing in our ears, and it never really went away,” he has said. He credits the American Tinnitus Foundation with helping him manage his disorder. In a message on the foundation’s website, he says, “There were days when I didn’t know how I would survive the agony.”
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The singer famous for his 1980s hits with Huey Lewis and the News suffers from Ménière's disease, an inner-ear disorder, and can no longer hear music frequencies or hold vocal pitches. Sometimes his hearing abruptly disappears, he told AARP in February 2020: “I measure it on a scale of 1 to 10. It’s not a 10 anymore. If it’s 6 and I have hearing aids in, I can hear speech for sure, and I can hear the phone and TV OK. Can I sing? Maybe. But I can’t book a rehearsal, because if it goes to a 2, then I can’t hear anything.”
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“I am very, very deaf,” the Who rocker told a Las Vegas audience, suggesting that the hearing loss is the result of a lifetime’s exposure to high-volume music. He warned “all you rock ’n’ roll fans” to “take your f---ing earplugs to the gigs. If only we had known when we were young.”
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PHOTO BY: Kevin Winter
The legendary guitarist said in early 2018 that he was losing his hearing. “The only thing I’m concerned with now is being in my 70s and being able to be proficient. I mean, I’m going deaf,” Clapton told BBC2. He said he has tinnitus.
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The Academy Award winner and cohost of The View, Goldberg wears hearing aids. She attributes her hearing loss to years of listening to loud music and warns others about hearing loss: “Stop it in its tracks because not being able to hear is a bit of a bitch. I can tell you that from experience,” the actor told viewers in 2015.
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Mexican superstar singer Luis Miguel has tinnitus, which he blames on 30 years of performing live music. The ringing in his ears led him to put his career on hold at age 45, in late 2015, to undergo treatment. As he told a reporter, “It is a condition that I can overcome and I think I’m controlling it to my best ability with the support of my dear people, doctors and the public.”
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Best known as TV’s Incredible Hulk, actor and former bodybuilder Ferrigno lost 75 percent of his hearing at the age of 3 due to an ear infection. He’s worn hearing aids since he was 4. “I think my hearing loss helped create a determination within me to be all I can be, and gave me a certain strength of character, too,” Ferrigno has said.
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Undiagnosed mumps when he was a baby left Lowe deaf in his right ear. “Really loud restaurants drive me ballistic,” Lowe told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I live in a mono world. I wish I could [hear in] stereo. But other than that, I don’t think about my hearing loss.”
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Like many boomers, Clinton ignored his hearing difficulties for years until doctors diagnosed him with high-frequency hearing deficiency, the most common form of hearing loss. Described as an inability to distinguish sounds in noisy, crowded situations with a lot of background chatter (such as restaurants, theaters or political rallies), it’s linked to aging and exposure to loud noise. Clinton now wears two in-canal hearing aids.
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A victim of domestic violence, Oscar winner Halle Berry lost 80 percent of her hearing in her left ear in 1991 when an abusive boyfriend struck her repeatedly. She often speaks about her hearing loss to raise awareness and help other women break the cycle of violence.
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The political satirist and Emmy-winning talk show host was in elementary school when doctors discovered a tumor in his right ear. In order to safely remove it, they also had to remove Colbert’s eardrum, leaving him deaf in that ear.
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Like his bandmate Roger Daltrey, the iconic songwriter and guitarist of The Who has hearing loss. He attributes it and his tinnitus to years of mega-decibel rock concerts and practice sessions, along with long-term use of headphones. Not helping matters any was Townshend’s bandmate Keith Moon, who’d use explosives to blow up his drum set — including a particularly powerful and deafening blast at the end of a 1967 appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
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Best known for her role on the hit TV show Glee, Lynch didn’t realize she was deaf in her right ear — probably from a high fever when she was a baby — until she was 7 years old. “My brother was switching his transistor radio from one ear to the other,” she explained in her 2011 memoir, Happy Accidents. “I said, ‘You can’t do that. You can only hear out of one ear.’ He said, ‘No, I can hear out of both!’”
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Redford insisted on performing his own stunts while filming his critically acclaimed 2013 movie All Is Lost. Playing a solo sailor stranded in the Indian Ocean, he was submerged in a massive water tank day after day and pelted with water from an off-camera hose. The result: a severe ear infection that permanently robbed him of 60 percent of his hearing in his left ear.
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A childhood bout with mumps left Hunter deaf in her left ear. But this Academy Award winner known for her edgy roles and acute attention to detail told CNN that her disability has been a boon to her career: “I’ve had to listen so intently to what people are saying,” she said — and she transfers that attention to detail to her roles.
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Foster is notoriously circumspect about all areas of her personal life, but she confessed to a Chicago Tribune reporter that she’s not very good about taking care of her own health needs, especially “this hearing-loss thing” and her mysterious attacks of vertigo. She has been spotted wearing a hearing aid.