Musicians With Hearing Loss

In the past, being born with hearing loss was considered a tremendous setback. With time, technology progressed and allowed deaf people to become better integrated. Over the years, they became more accustomed to doing things that were previously thought impossible for those with hearing loss or complete deafness. In particular, this applied to musicians. Ludwig van Beethoven was one such musician to completely defy the odds and produce music that is still held in the highest esteem several centuries later. But isn’t a deaf musician practically a contradiction in itself?

Deafness can happen in many different ways during a person’s life, and hearing loss causes can come in many forms. Sensorineural hearing loss may sometimes develop due to ear problems, and at other times it may be due to a failure in the way the brain processes sound. This can range from mild hearing loss to severe, and can even reach complete deafness. On the other hand, conductive hearing loss develops due to complications with how sound waves are conducted at any point between the outer to inner ear areas. Conductive hearing loss can occur at the same time as sensorineural hearing loss or independently. Among the other top hearing loss causes is sudden hearing loss. Someone who develops sudden hearing loss may have had perfect hearing previously throughout their lives. Viral infections, inner ear diseases, or ruptured membranes can all contribute to sudden hearing loss. It can develop over the course of a few days or even as quickly as overnight, and is typically diagnosed when an acute episode of sensorineural hearing loss sets in.

Some people, such as the hip-hop musician, Sean Forbes, are born deaf. In this case, Forbes was initially enamored with drumming since the vibrations made it easier for him to pick out the rhythm. Another example of a musician with acute hearing loss, who is also drawn to percussion instruments, is Evelyn Glennie. Despite her disability, she has enjoyed much success in her music career, including countless high-profile worldwide tours, a Grammy award, solo recordings, and a massive percussion collection. Being a deaf musician does not necessarily mean that one has to be restricted to percussion. In the case of Mandy Harvey, she was able to hear as a child, but did experience intermittent periods of conductive hearing loss. At a young age she developed a love for music. By her first year of college, her hearing had completely gone. Although it was a massive loss for Harvey, she eventually did overcome it due to her perfect pitch and previous musical experience. Today she continues to perform as a jazz singer. A famous musician who suffers from partial deafness due to various hearing loss causes is Pete Townshend of The Who. After applying a number of treatments over several years, as well as using devices to help him hear better, Townshend reports that his hearing has improved somewhat. Finally, in a complete defiance against deafness, three deaf friends got together to form Beethoven’s Nightmare, the first rock ‘n roll band made up of all-deaf musicians.