Dave Grohl has spent over 30 years rocking out on stage every night, but he’s spent the last 20 years paying that price.
The Foo Fighters frontman revealed on The Howard Stern Show last week that he has hearing damage in both ears and he’s relied on reading lips for nearly half his life.
“I haven’t had them tested in a long time — I mean, I know what they’re gonna say,” Grohl said about getting his ears examined by a doctor. “‘You have hearing damage tinnitus in your left ear, morseo than your right ear.'”
Grohl explained that it can be extremely hard to hear people in public settings, and the pandemic has made conversations more difficult as people’s masks cover their mouths, meaning he can no longer rely on lip-reading.
“If you were sitting next to me right here at dinner, I wouldn’t understand a f—ing word you were saying to me. There’s no way,” he told Stern. “In a crowded restaurant, that’s worse. That’s the worst thing about this pandemic… I’ve been reading lips for like, 20 years, so when someone comes up to me and they’re like [garbled noise], I’m like, ‘I’m a rock musician. I’m f—ing deaf, I can’t hear what you’re saying.”
Tinnitus is a ringing in the ear that can develop over time when ongoing exposure to noise damages tiny sensory hair cells in the inner ear that help transmit sound to the brain. The American Tinnitus Association estimates that roughly 50 million Americans also struggle with some form of tinnitus.
Grohl is not the first musician to express his hearing impairment. Other rockers include The Who’s Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, Neil Young and Eric Clapton. And while many now perform with in-ear monitors while performing to protect their ears, Grohl chooses to go without them, saying it “removes [him] from the natural atmosphere sound.”
“I wanna hear the audience like, in front of me and I want to turn around be able to hear Taylor [Hawkins] right there and go over here and hear Pat [Smear], and go over here and hear Chris [Shiflett] and stuff like that,” he explained. “It just messes with your spatial understanding of where you are on stage.”