The wages we pay to rock and roll aren’t always of the sinful and hungover variety. Some of us pay, dearly, with our hearing, one of the best gifts that God has given humanity. Today is Pete Townshend’s 66th birthday, and The Who guitarist is just one of countless rockers living with tinnitus, a particularly annoying form of hearing loss characterized by a constant ringing or buzzing in one or both ears. It’s not surprising that Townshend is almost deaf, considering the volume and intensity of his band throughout their career. From the beginning in dingy British rock clubs to massive outdoor concerts, he’s been playing to 11, maybe even 21, through his amps.
And earplugs aren’t very sexy or rock and roll, so we doubt he was using any preventive steps to save his hearing beyond drugs or booze to drown out the ringing.
Don’t forget us in the peanut gallery in the seats and pits who deal with high decibels from small venues to arenas almost nightly. Sadly, we rarely wear hearing protection ourselves doing our Rocks Off duties, but we know that one day we will regret it when we can’t hear the smoke detector, or be able to carry on our adopted father’s oil business. Here are some rockers with acute hearing loss, from metalmen and punks like Ozzy Osbourne and Husker Du’s Bob Mould to soft-rockers like Sting and Phil Collins.