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Did You Know These Celebrities Live With Tinnitus?

If you have tinnitus, you’re not alone. Tinnitus is a fairly common problem, with 50-60 million Americans experiencing the annoying ringing in the ears. Approximately 10 percent of adults in the United States experience or have experienced tinnitus. People from all walks of life suffer from tinnitus, celebrities included.

What is Tinnitus?


People affected by tinnitus hear a ringing or some other noise in their ears; this noise often does not exist and only the affected person can hear it. Tinnitus itself is not actually a condition, it’s a symptom of some other problem with the ears, often age-related or noise-induced hearing loss or other ear injury. Therefore, treating the underlying cause often alleviates the tinnitus symptoms altogether. The phantom noise that people suffering from tinnitus hear varies from person to person and has been described as ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking, hissing, and humming sounds. Some people experience a low sound while others hear a high pitched squeal. Some people experience it in both ears, and some only in one ear. While tinnitus usually isn't serious, it can be highly annoying or even nearly deafening in some people, interfering with their ability to concentrate or hear real sound. Two types of tinnitus occur:

  • Subjective tinnitus - this type of tinnitus is the most common and can only be heard by the sufferer. It is often difficult to treat because it can originate due to problems in the outer, middle, or inner ear, along the auditory nerves, or in the portions of the brain dedicated to processing sound.
  • Objective tinnitus - this type of tinnitus is much more rare and can be heard by a doctor under examination of the sufferer. The most common causes are blood vessel, middle ear bone, or muscle issues.

Tinnitus can have many causes, but some of the most common include:

  • Age-related hearing loss - Most people experience some degree of presbycusis, or hearing loss that occurs with age. Tinnitus can often accompany this type of hearing loss.
  • Noise-induced hearing loss - Hearing loss due to damage from loud noises can happen at any age, and the damage to hair cells in the cochlea of the inner ear is irreversible. Heavy equipment, firearms, and other loud sounds can cause noise-induced hearing loss. Even listening to music too loudly through earbuds or headphones can cause hearing damage. These types of loud noises can cause temporary tinnitus, such as from a loud concert, but damage to your hearing can also cause a more permanent tinnitus. 
  • Ear canal blockage from earwax - Earwax can sometimes accumulate in your ear and harden, pressing on the eardrum and causing irritation which may lead to tinnitus. This condition is easily remedied by a visit to your physician to remove the blockage.
  • Changes in ear bones - Abnormal bone growth in the middle ear can disrupt the ability of sound to travel from the middle ear to the inner ear and may result in tinnitus. This abnormal bone growth is known as otosclerosis, and is usually a hereditary condition.

Removing the Stigma - Celebrities Open Up About Tinnitus


People suffering from tinnitus may feel like they are suffering alone, and often report feelings of isolation due to this phantom sound that no one else can hear. However, now more than ever, people are starting to open up and discuss their problems with tinnitus. A number of celebrities are joining that movement and openly talking about their experiences with tinnitus: how they developed, live with, and manage their tinnitus.

William Shatner

The world-renowned actor, known most famously as Star Trek’s Captain James T. Kirk, has been a vocal proponent of the American Tinnitus Association for years. Shatner has always been very open about his battle with tinnitus. The result of standing too close to a special effects explosion during a filming of Star Trek, Shatner has described his tinnitus as a loud screeching sound in his head that would not go away. He lived in agony for years until he sought the help of an audiologist who helped him manage the condition. Over time, Shatner has learned to suppress and ignore the sound. The techniques he uses include reduced coffee and alcohol consumption and regular exercise. He also practices listening to soothing and calming sounds, which helps to re-train his brain to consider the tinnitus as background noise and make it more manageable.

Eric Clapton

3 time inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and widely to be considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time, Eric Clapton suffers from hearing loss and tinnitus due to many years of studio recording and live concerts. He says that he wishes he had heeded warnings and used hearing protection when he was younger. He now wears hearing aids to manage his hearing loss and tinnitus, and actively tries to prevents further hearing damage by wearing hearing protection whenever he’s performing.

Barbra Streisand

Hollywood legend Barbra Streisand has been living with tinnitus since she was nine years old. She’s not sure what caused it, but the ringing in her ears came on abruptly while she was at school and hasn’t gone away since. She waited for years to see an audiologist about her problem because she was afraid to find out what the problem was. An audiologist has helped her to manage her tinnitus and she has never let it hold her back.

Pete Townshend

Songwriter and guitarist of The Who, Pete Townshend has been playing loud music in recording studios and live concerts for years. Like many other musicians, he has developed noise-induced hearing loss. The damage is severe - Townshend is completely deaf in one ear, has only partial hearing in the other, and suffers from tinnitus. He now has to use computer programs in the recording studio to help him with the high frequency sounds since he can no longer hear them. When performing live, he uses custom-made hearing protection to protect the little hearing that he has left. Townshend also helps to promote hearing loss awareness by helping to fund the non-profit advocacy group Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers (HEAR).

The information in this guide has been written using the following reliable sources:

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