Yesterday, one of my favorite 80s pop icons, Huey Lewis, announced that he had to cancel all his 2018 shows due to sudden hearing loss from Ménière‘s Disease. His show in Indianapolis last summer was influential in pushing me forward as a singer in this new stage of my hearing. As a singer who has gone through this myself, I’d like to offer him the following:
This is NOT it.
Hearing loss is a major setback for anyone, but for a musician it can ruin your entire life – if you let it. You don’t seem like the kind of guy who is going to let it, and that’s the best and most admirable thing right now. People are going to say a lot of things like, “oh, you’re so strong” and “I can’t believe you’re dealing with this so well” and “I could never survive if that happened to me”. But for people like you and me, there is no other choice – we have to be strong and we have to survive. Doing so with a positive attitude is a little bit harder. There will always be down times and moments when you really do think your life is over. But the music inside you drives you forward, that passion that you can’t let go of because it flows through you like the Force. That is what is going to get you through this, along with the support of the people around you, your fans, and the people who have been there.
You are NOT alone.
20 years ago, I was there. I wanted nothing more in the world than to be a professional singer. I wanted to share the stage with the amazing singers who had come before me – and Huey Lewis was on that list. Then it happened. Overnight, I was deaf. I didn’t think I would ever sing again. But less than a year later, I did. It was hard, it was painful, it was a lot of work. My brain didn’t know how to recognize what I was hearing – the high frequencies were just gone, the low frequencies were distorted, and everything in between was just a jumble of unrecognizable sound. I’ve stated many times throughout my journey to everyone who asks: it’s not a matter of volume, it’s a matter of distortion. Just as you say.
I was lucky. I was a well-trained singer before it happened to me, and afterward I found a voice teacher who pushed me to rely on feeling rather than hearing. Then I found a whole support system with the Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss. Next month, we are having a web chat specifically for singers with hearing loss. I encourage you to join us, under a pseudonym if you prefer. We range from professionals and full-time musicians such as yourself, to people who just play for themselves. But we all have one thing in common: we’ve all been where you are now.
With all the help I had, my brain adjusted. The pitches were still weird a lot of the time, but I was almost always still able to find them given time. Tools like Tunable on my phone help when I can’t. While I finally chose to get a cochlear implant last year (and thus have been having to retrain my brain all over again), I was able to find a way to sing during every phase of my hearing journey. I have absolutely no doubt you will too. Mandy Harvey does it without hearing technology, I do it with. There are so many options available – you will find what works for you and we are all here to help you.
When you’re down, I hope you can look to me and I can inspire you the way you have inspired me all of these years. If you ever need to talk about it all with someone who completely understands, please don’t ever hesitate to reach out to me – I will keep your confidence, give advice, and just commiserate. I have absolutely no doubt that this is not it for you. You will perform again. And maybe like what happened to some of us, it will make you even better than before.