Back in Black: How AC/DC’s Lead Singer Overcame A Hearing Loss

by | Nov 17, 2020 | News, Patient Resources

In 2016, AC/DC put out a formal statement wishing singer/songwriter and frontman Brian Johnson “all the best with his hearing issues and future ventures” before stating that Axl Rose (from my home town in Indiana) would be taking over the singing spot for the band.

By all accounts, AC/DC — at least the version of AC/DC we’ve come to know since Bon Scott’s all-too-unfortunate death in the early 80s — was finished. This broke fans’ hearts.

Back in Black, Hell’s Bells, and For Those About To Rock were some of the sounds of my youth!

But, like many hearing issues, Brian Johnson wasn’t doomed. In fact, he was back in the band the very next year. Recently, I read his interview with Rolling Stone Magazine regarding his trials and tribulations with hearing loss.

As an avid fan of music and a hearing professional, stories like this make me excited to discuss the value of hearing loss prevention & intervention for musicians.

Believe it or not, almost every musician will face hearing issues at some point in their life. But those hearing issues don’t have to destroy your love for music. 

How Music Impacts Your Ears

Around 70 percent of Americans listen to music every single day. In regular settings, listening to music has little impact on your long-term hearing. However, live concerts and playing music live are a completely different story.

Twenty-four percent of Americans suffer from Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL).

This type of hearing loss happens when your ears are exposed to extremely loud sounds for a short period or semi-loud sounds over a more extended period.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), sounds over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.

The average concert is around 100 to 110 decibels. In other words, it’s not surprising that Brian Johnson suffers from hearing loss. In fact, a ton of famous musicians have hearing loss due to loud music, including:

According to an extensive study, musicians are 57% more likely to experience hearing loss than the general population.

Absolutely, live music is fantastic, but you take a real risk when you perform at or attend a concert without hearing protection.

Luckily, playing music or attending concerts doesn’t have to be a hearing ‘death sentence’. You have options. It all starts with prevention and intervention.

Early Intervention is the Key to Recovery

‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’   This adage is never more true than when it comes to NIHL.  The single best thing musicians can do for their hearing is to invest in musician hearing protection equipment — like ‘musicians’ earplugs and In-Ear-Monitors (IEMs).

However, if you already suffer from hearing loss and/or experience annoying tinnitus, you should immediately seek the help of a hearing professional.

The single biggest misconception I hear at my practice is that it’s “too late” to fix my hearing problem.  While it’s true, we can’t undo the physical damage to the inner ear; it’s never too late to start protection and treatment.

In fact, it’s critical to start treatment to help maintain the hearing you have left.

Modern hearing aid technology is truly fantastic, and there are different types of devices to help you hear again and improve your quality of life.

Unfortunately, many people think hearing damage is a non-serious issue or unable to be addressed—only ~20% of people that could benefit from hearing loss intervention seek it out.

Be like Brian Johnson. Get your hearing checked. Get back in the black!

If you are interested in finding out more about the high-fidelity hearing protection that we offer or would like to schedule a hearing assessment, please contact us today! Don’t give up on the music you love.  Protect your hearing so you can continue to Jam.

Do you know somebody that needs to see this? Why not share it?

Jonathan Lipschutz Audiologist, M.S., F-AAA, Owner

Jonathan is the owner of Berkeley Hearing Center. He received his bachelor of science in hearing and speech science and a master of science in audiology from Purdue University. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology and the California Academy of Audiology. Jonathan has over 20 years of audiology and hearing aid experience in both the non-profit and corporate sectors.

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