Celebrities with Hearing Loss and Tinnitus

A huge number of politicians, celebrities, and musicians—past and present—have dealt with hearing-related problems

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that those in the limelight are people, too. Like everyone else, they can also experience hearing loss or that constant ringing in their ears, called tinnitus, that plagues so many of us.

Hearing loss and tinnitus often develop because of exposure to loud noises. Hence, actors, musicians, and politicians may even be more prone to hearing-related problems than the rest of us!

In fact, studies have shown that noise-induced hearing loss affects up to 90% of musician and 1 in 3 musicians suffers from tinnitus. The same is true for any profession where noise is an occupational hazard.

But noise isn’t the only reason people have hearing loss or tinnitus. Some celebrities report other causes, including viral infections and physical trauma.

Here’s a list of celebrities that suffer from hearing loss and/or tinnitus.

Presidents and Heads of State

Partly because of their general age, but also because of their lifestyle, many politicians have experienced hearing loss.

Ronald Reagan Tom Powers Hearing Aids 1988

Audiologist Thomas Powers fit Ronald Reagan with hearing aids in 1988. In those days, clinicians adjusted hearing aids with a small tool that turned a trimpot on the device. "I pulled a small tool out and made some quick modifications while he was wearing the hearing aids." Dr. Powers reminisced. "I could only imagine what the Secret Service agents were thinking while looking at me stick this thing that looked like a mini screwdriver into the President’s ears."

Theodore Roosevelt

Probably due to his early military career as a "Rough Rider" and penchant for game hunting, Roosevelt experienced hearing difficulty. After he was president, he had an abscess removed from his ear drum that kept him from hearing in his left ear.

Winston Churchill

Churchill was British Prime Minister from 1940-1945 and 1951-1955, and his hearing loss first surfaced in 1944. Besides having a military career that ranged from British India and the Second Boer War to WWI, he suffered several health setbacks including pneumonia, paratyphoid, strokes, and being hit by a taxi. He received his first hearing aid in 1952 (the MI5 made him ditch it out of fears the Soviets might be bugging it, although no evidence of this exists), and the House of Commons made special provisions for his hearing loss.

Bill Clinton

President Clinton's hearing loss progressed throughout his life, and he was fitted with Completely-in-Canal (CIC) hearing aids during his presidency in 1997. The November 1997 Hearing Review attributed his hearing loss to "exposure to helicopters, noisy rallies, loud rock-and-roll music, duck hunting, and his years playing saxophone in a band."

Ronald Reagan

Before he was President, Ronald Reagan was an actor. While shooting the film Code of the Secret Service in 1939, a blank pistol was shot near his ear, causing tinnitus. He was first fitted with a Starkey INTRA In-the-Ear (ITE) hearing aid in 1983 and then again with a Siemens hearing aid in 1988 by audiologist Thomas Powers. Reagan advocated for hearing care in a public service message, and many attribute him for the spike in sales during this period.

Actors and Entertainers

Entertainers With Hearing Loss Wiki

Actors and entertainers who have spoken out about their hearing loss and tinnitus include (clockwise from top left) Whoopi Goldberg, Steve Martin, Liza Minelli, Halle Berry, Barbara Streisand, William Shatner, Rob Lowe, and Gerard Butler.

Steve Martin

Years of listening to loud music, performing in front of noisy crowds, and a gunfight scene while filing for the 1986 movie The Three Amigos, contributed to Steve Martin’s hearing loss and tinnitus. In 1992, Martin commented that “You just get used to it, or you go insane,” and has since started wearing hearing aids.

William Shatner

While shooting an episode of Star Trek, William Shatner stood too close to a special effects explosion, causing immediate ringing in his ears that did not go away. In a recorded video for the American Tinnitus Association (ATA) about his experiences with tinnitus, he says that “there were days when I didn’t know whether I would survive the agony [as] I was so tormented by the screeching in my head.” Shatner credits the ATA and the help they gave him for saving his life.

Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg, actress, comedian, and talk-show host, has tinnitus, but not from her job. Instead, Goldberg attributes her hearing loss and tinnitus from years of listening to loud music in headphones.

Rob Lowe

Hearing loss isn’t always the result of loud noises. Rob Lowe has been deaf in his right ear since he was an infant. While he doesn’t know for sure what caused it, he suspects it was an undiagnosed case of mumps.

Liza Minnelli

At the 1973 Academy Awards, Liza Minnelli’s father screamed with joy when his daugther won the Oscar for Best Actress in the film Cabaret. Minnelli’s tinnitus is a permanent reminder of this event.

Gerard Butler

Unlike many other celebrities on this list, the actor Gerard Butler has had lifelong tinnitus due to a childhood surgery on his right ear. It left his ear partially deformed, resulting in tinnitus, hearing loss, and a slightly crooked smile.

Halle Berry

A blow to the head by an abusive ex-partner caused Halle Berry to lose 80% of her hearing in her left ear. Today, she speaks out against domestic violence, encouraging women to break the silence.

Barbra Streisand

Actor, singer, and director Barbra Streisand has had tinnitus since she was nine years old, and she doesn’t know exactly what caused it. She waited years before seeking help and treatment, but now she has learned how to better manage it.

Lou Ferrigno

Best known for his role as the original "Incredible Hulk", Ferrigno has been impacted by profound hearing loss nearly his whole life. His hearing loss started for him when he was a toddler due to ear infections, and he began wearing hearing aids at 4 years of age. In February 2021, he opted for a cochlear implant. "My cochlear implant has, so quickly, taken me to a new level of hearing. It's like I'm reliving my life again,” he says. Ferrigno remains an ardent long-time advocate for hearing healthcare.


Musicians With Hearing Loss Montage

Musicians who have spoken out about their hearing loss and tinnitus include (clockwise from top left) Eric Clapton, Huey Lewis, Phil Collins, Sting, Ozzy Osbourne, Anthony Kiedis, Pete Townshend, and Neil Young.

Phil Collins

In 2011, the music legend Phil Collins ended his performance career due to his hearing loss and tinnitus. He was in the music industry for over 40 years, performing and attending thousands of shows, so it is no surprise that it took a toll on his hearing.

Anthony Kiedis

The frontman of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Keidis also suffers from hearing loss and tinnitus due to his music career. He wrote about it in his autobiography, pinpointing a tour with Nirvana as the start of his tinnitus and hearing loss.

Chris Martin

Chris Martin of legendary band Coldplay suffers from tinnitus. When speaking of his condition, he said, “Looking after your ears is unfortunately something you don’t think about until there’s a problem”. He and the rest of the band now use ear plugs to protect themselves.

Ozzy Osbourne

Like many fellow musicians, Ozzy Osbourne never wore earplugs while rocking out on stage. Today, he’s “somewhat deaf” and suffers from tinnitus.

Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Both The Who musicians developed severe hearing damage. Daltrey said he was “very, very deaf,” while Townshend suffers more from tinnitus, which is ringing at frequencies he used to play on his guitar: “It hurts, it’s painful, and it’s frustrating,” he says. To cope with the condition, the entire band now uses custom ear protection.

Sting (Gordon Sumner)

The former lead vocalist of The Police, better known as Sting, suffers from both hearing loss and tinnitus. Although he describes himself as “fairly deaf,” he’s not fond of hearing aids: “I tried wearing a hearing aid, but I heard more than I wanted to hear!”

Although we don't know if Dee Snider of the heavy-metal band Twisted Sister has hearing loss, this commercial for Sennheiser in which he's featured does make the point that—just like anyone else—rock stars have trouble hearing in noisy restaurants and can be helped by hearing devices. Closed captions are available on this video. If you are using a mobile phone, please enable captions clicking on the gear icon.

Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton’s lifetime of playing the guitar and performing has left him with hearing loss and tinnitus. Since developing these problems, he has used hearing aids and ear protection to prevent any further damage.

Neil Young

Young's Harvest Moon album might not exist without tinnitus. In 1991, Neil Young finished a year-long tour with his band Crazy Horse and hurt his ears while mixing the band’s live album “Weld.” Forced to protect his hearing, Young changed his style of music: “I made Harvest Moon because I didn't want to hear any loud sounds.”

Huey Lewis

In the mid 90s, following a decade of regular vertigo attacks, Huey Lewis was diagnosed with Menière’s Disease. The disorder affects the inner ear and can cause severe dizziness, hearing loss, and tinnitus. By the time he was diagnosed, Lewis had lost 80% of his hearing in his right ear. He managed, but when the hearing in his left ear started fluctuating in 2018, Lewis had to stop touring because the condition made it impossible for him to find pitch.

Trent Reznor

The lead singer of rock band Nine Inch Nails has also developed tinnitus due to years of practicing and performing his music. He has even written songs about the struggle of living with this condition, such as “The Becoming”.

Coping with Hearing Loss and Tinnitus

If you have tinnitus or hearing loss, these celebrities show us that life and careers go on in spite of the challenges. Many of them support organizations that educate about hearing impairments and support those who suffer from it, including the American Tinnitus Association and the Hearing Loss Association of America.

Lars Ulrich and Pete Townshend, for example, have funded the non-profit organization Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers (H.E.A.R.). Leaning in is one way to deal with the blows life deals you. If you’re affected by hearing loss or tinnitus, the best thing you can do is meet with an audiologist to discuss how to prevent further damage and manage your current conditions.


Dr. Fullman wrote this article originally titled "Celebrities with Tinnitus” in 2018, and HearingTracker updates it periodically.