Now that the stigma of hearing loss is beginning to gradually erode, we are seeing more and more celebrities speaking out about their hearing loss. Hearing Like Me takes a look at deaf musicians around the world.
A deaf musician who joined this category in recent years is Phil Collins. He told Connect Hearing Canada about the moment he experienced sudden hearing loss: “At the time, I was recording in the States and had spent the day singing in the studio. Then I collected my daughter from school. We got home, had something to eat, played a video game. Then suddenly my ear went sssssssshh. Within a second my left ear simply closed down. As if I had been underwater. I tried to clear it by pinching my nose.”
Since then, Collins has come to terms with his hearing loss and tinnitus. Thankfully his hearing has improved, as it was diagnosed as being partially caused by stress.
If this was a rap fight, perhaps in the American corner would be hip hop artist Sean Forbes. At 35, he weighs in with an impressive range of communication through American Sign Language (ASL). Forbes lost his hearing as a baby when he contracted spinal meningitis. He is the only person in his family who is deaf. His parents encouraged him to pursue his love of music. They gave him a drum set for his fifth Christmas and took him to concerts. His childhood was filled with musicians and. music.
Forbes attended New York’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, where he met other like-minded souls. He later founded DPAN.TV, an online media platform host for various sign language content. Through DPAN.TV, he has been able to collaborate with bands and create ASL music videos for acts like Owl City and The Moon and Eminem.
Scottish double Grammy winner and percussionist Dame Evelynn Glennie has been profoundly deaf since she was 12 years old. Glennie has had a long career. She has played and recorded with artists such as Mark Knopfler, Björk, and Bobby McFerrin. Glennie often plays barefoot in order to be able to feel the music. She has often spoken out about not only her own deafness but about deafness in general.
When Mandy Harvey won America’s Got Talent in 2017, it was in a sense a double victory. Not only did she achieve this as a singer, but as a deaf singer, which is altogether more challenging. Harvey’s progressive hearing loss was a result of Ehlers Danlos syndrome (EDS), a condition that weakens the connective tissue of the body. She was diagnosed when a child, yet had EDS from birth.
Harvey is also one of the artists chosen for the True Colors Showcase 2021. The video showcase came about when last year’s True Colors Festival was cancelled. All performers have overcome adversity in order to be on stage. The artists will be showing off their collective talents covering the hit song “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree.
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Another artist in the True Colors video is sign language rapper Marko Vuoriheimo, known professionally as Signmark. He comes from Helsinki, Finland. He was inspired watching MTV growing up and has the honor of being the first deaf artist to sign a contract with Warner Music.
Born into a family that is mostly deaf, he stood out because of his early interest in music. Despite opposition from those around him, he began writing his own music. He founded his group Signmark in 2006, two years after first composing music. A high point came in 2009 when he almost became Finland’s representative in the Eurovision song contest. He achieved a score of 41.2 with the song “Speakerbox,” but it wasn’t enough for him to move on.
Signmark uses various types of sign language to engage with his global audience, including Finnish Sign Language, American Sign Language (ASL), and even Chinese Sign Language. Everything begins with him wearing headphones and feeling the vibrations of bass and midrange sounds. During his performances, he holds his hands at different heights in order to convey lower or higher notes in the musical structure. At 41, he is probably the most famous deaf rapper in the world. He is also a lecturer at the University of Helsinki and holds a bachelor’s degree in Educational Sciences.
British and award-winning musician KT Tunstall has become vocal about her hearing loss. In 2019, she lost hearing totally in her left ear from sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL). She still suffers from tinnitus in that ear. The Scottish singer-songwriter recently told her fans on Twitter to protect their hearing.
Tunstall was quoted as saying to ILoveBelfast: “I’d never been particularly careful about my hearing over the years, especially as a clubber through my 20s and cranking the volume up on bad monitors at my early gigs. But about 10 years ago, I suffered very sudden high-frequency, or top-end, hearing loss and developed constant tinnitus in my left ear. I remember the tinnitus being especially hard to deal with at first and it was causing me some depression – it’s difficult to deal with when you can’t ever escape this sound. But I got used to it and carried on.”
DeafBoyOne is a deaf musician who combines music with sign. His deafness resulted from a playground accident when someone clapped his hands over his ears and burst his eardrums in a simple prank.
Read more: Meet deaf rocker Pete Waller, aka DeafBoyOne
Beach Boy Wilson had hearing issues as far back as childhood. He didn’t let that stop him from being part of one of the most successful bands in the 60s and 70s. The Beach Boys had hit after hit with their self-proclaimed surf sound.
There are many musicians who have tinnitus and/or hearing loss due to listening to loud music. They include the following:
Read more: 10+ celebrities with hearing loss