Celebrities With Tinnitus: Shatner, Letterman, Streisand, & Reagan

Did you know that Coldplay lead vocalist Chris Martin is afflicted with tinnitus? We didn’t either but he revealed recently that he was diagnosed with the condition nearly ten years ago and that it was caused by his propensity to listen to music oh-so-loudly when he was a teenager.

For those of you not familiar with it, tinnitus is a condition where one hears phantom noise — such as buzzing, humming, hissing, ringing, roaring — that are not actually there. It is more common than you think (one in five reportedly has it) and, aside from constant exposure to loud noise, it can be cause by other factors such as earwax blockage, medication, age-related hearing loss, stress and depression, high blood pressure, and many more.

Aside from Chris Martin, here are eight other celebrities with tinnitus:

William Shatner. The Star Trek actor’s tinnitus was reportedly caused by an explosion on the set of Star Trek. Here’s what he says about his condition: “It was like listening to the hiss of a TV that’s not tuned to a channel. I thought I’d go deaf or nuts. I thought of killing myself.”

Shatner underwent tinnitus refraining therapy which helped retrain the brain to ignore the buzzing. “Now the condition doesn’t affect me,” he says.

Leonard Nimoy. Apparently, the Star Trek explosion which damaged William Shatner’s ear also had another victim: Leonard Nimoy. According to IMDB, Nimoy’s right ear and Shatner’s left ear were affected during the filming of the episode, “Star Trek: Arena, when they were both close to a special effects explosion.

Lars Ulrich. Metallica drummer discovered that he had tinnitus when he often woke up at the middle of the night to turn off a noisy TV that is not actually on. He says: I would fall asleep often with the television on, and I would wake up in the middle of the night to go turn the TV off. Except it wasn’t actually on. When I realized that I was doing that frequently, actually getting up to turn the TV off that was not on to begin with, I realized that maybe I had some issues.”

Lars’ condition is linked to his constant exposure to the loud noise during their concerts. He now advises the iPod generation to be take care of their ears: “If you get a scratch on your nose, in a week that’ll be gone. When you scratch your hearing or damage your hearing, it doesn’t come back. I try to point out to younger kids … once your hearing is gone, it’s gone, and there’s no real remedy.”

Ayumi Hamasaki. In 2008, top-selling Japanese pop star Ayumi Hamasaki revealed that she has gone deaf in her left ear but hopes to continue singing despite her condition. She confirmed that she has tinnitus after going in for an ear check the previous year. Says Ayumi of how her hearing problem would affect her singing career: “I would like to continue as a singer. That’s why I would like to continue singing until I reach the limit with my remaining right ear. I won’t stop. I won’t make excuses. As a professional, I would like to deliver the best performance for everyone.”

Graham Cole. British actor Graham Cole learned that he had tinnitus following a visit with his doctor. Here’s what he says of how he found out about his condition:

I’d been playing racquetball and in the changing room afterwards I was aware of a thumping in my ears. It felt as if someone was blowing in my ears and making a strange noise. It didn’t seem to last for long, but I now know that once tinnitus starts, it’s there all the time, but sometimes other noises mask it. I heard the noise mostly when it was quiet, especially in bed. It was also very apparent after exercise or when I’d been filming scenes in which I was running around.

After several weeks I went to my GP, who said that I was describing tinnitus. He told me that there was really nothing he could do. I resigned myself to having to make the best of it.

I was fine when I was talking to one person, but if I was in a noisy room I found it very difficult to focus on the conversation. I couldn’t separate the sounds. At showbiz parties and family gatherings I began going into my shell, which isn’t at all like me.

I’ve always been interested in “mind over matter” and I do yoga, so I used that to calm myself down at bedtime. I almost hypnotised myself into trying to ignore the sounds in my ears. This went on for about 18 months and by then the tinnitus was becoming more and more intrusive. So I went back to my GP, who said I should see an ear, nose and throat specialist.

He said I had otosclerosis, a hardening of the stirrup (or stapes) bone in the middle ear. The doctor said that it would get worse and worse and I would become more aware of the tinnitus. Then, without softening the blow at all, he said I would probably go deaf.

Barbra Streisand. During an interview with Barbara Walters back in 1985, the divine diva revealed that she had tinnitus since she was 16 years old. Apparently, the condition affects both of her ears.

Ronald Reagan. In the 1930s, actor Ronald Reagan sustained a damage in his right ear when, during a movie shooting, a blank pistol was fired less than six inches from him. He developed tinnitus from the incident and lived with the condition until the 1980s when technology caught up such that hearing aids can be tuned to individual needs. The President had a custom-made hearing aid which enabled him to have “nearly normal hearing under most circumstances”.

David Letterman. The Late Night show host sometimes talks about his tinnitus during his show. Here’s a video of David from back in 1996 where he and William Shatner talk about their condition and the latter’s legislative advocacy for tinnitus sufferers.

It’s a very informative discussion so we hope you watch the video.

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