will.i.am is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, and record producer whose entire life revolves around making and listening to music. That’s why it’s all the more heartbreaking when people hear the answer to the question: is will.i.am deaf?
will.i.am is not deaf, but he has been suffering from tinnitus for many years and is on the way to irreversible hearing loss. Generally speaking, tinnitus is a fairly manageable condition, but in will.i.am’s case he is not improving but getting worse as time goes by.
For artists like will.i.am, tinnitus is not only detrimental to their music career but oftentimes caused by it. Let’s find out more about will.i.am’s tinnitus, who else has it, and what the condition is.
will.i.am has been suffering from tinnitus for many years now. He revealed to the Sun, “I can’t be still. Work calms me down. I can’t be quiet, as that’s when I notice the ringing in my ears.”
He went on to say, “There’s always a beep there every day, all day, like now. I don’t know exactly how long I’ve had this, but it’s gradually getting worse. I don’t know what silence sounds like anymore. Music is the only thing which eases my pain.”
In 2019, he told Metro, “I’m 43. When I went to the doctor and got an ear test, they said ‘Your ears are that of someone a lot older.’ In 2007, 2013, and this year, I got all my frequency tests and the curve… it’s proper loss.”
In a 2020 interview with Loose Women, he discussed how his tinnitus impacts his judging ability on The Voice UK.
He said, “To make me feel better I say ‘tonight is the night’… Yeah, I have it. For any job whether you’re playing sports, you’re gonna have bad knees or bad ankles, anything that requires you to be in these types of environments, something’s gonna go weak. For me it’s that ‘hmm’.”
When asked if it impacts his ability to judge, he said “No, not at all. I went to my ears, nose, and throat guy and he’s like ‘Well, you’ve gotta turn down the music’ and I’m like ‘Well, then I can’t hear it!”
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is defined by Mayo Clinic as ‘when you experience ringing or other noises in one or both of your ears’. This noise — which can be buzzing, roaring, clicking, hissing, or humming — is only heard by the person who has tinnitus.
Approximately 15% to 20% of people get tinnitus, and it’s much more common in older adults and senior citizens. It’s caused by ear infections, head injuries, certain medications, and age-related hearing loss.
Anyone can develop tinnitus, but there are risk factors that can increase the chances of getting it. In will.i.am’s case, loud noise exposure is to blame, but other risk factors are age, gender, and tobacco usage.
Celebrities That Suffer From Tinnitus
Though will.i.am is one of the most prominent celebrities to suffer from tinnitus, he’s far from the only one. Many celebrities — past and present — have been ailed by the condition.
Joining will.i.am in the club of hearing-impaired celebrities are Eric Clapton, Huey Lewis, Chris Martin, Liza Minnelli, Steve Martin, Ozzy Osbourne, William Shatner, Barbra Streisand, and Pete Townshend.
Ozzy says of his tinnitus, “I suffer from permanent tinnitus… which means I’ve got this constant ringing in my ears, which has made me somewhat deaf, or ‘conveniently deaf’ as Sharon calls it. It’s like this ‘Whee!’ noise in my head all the time.”
Chris has been suffering with tinnitus for more than a decade. He told Daily Mail, “Looking after your ears is unfortunately something you don’t think about until there’s a problem.”
Eric, who also suffers from peripheral neuropathy, isn’t letting his tinnitus hold him back. He told Billboard, “I am still going to work. I’m doing a few gigs. What I’m concerned with now is being in my 70s and being able to be proficient. I mean, I’m going deaf, I’ve got tinnitus, my hands just about work.”