Rocker, Eric Clapton Suffering from Tinnitus, Hearing Loss

Premier Health Now

Music icon Eric Clapton hopes his fans will continue to support him after revealing in a recent interview that he suffers from tinnitus and hearing loss. Tinnitus, often referred to as “ringing in the ears,” is the perception of hearing something when there is no external noise present.

Premier Health Now asked Jeffery Adam, MD, otolaryngologist, Premier ENT Associates, about the causes of tinnitus and its effect on hearing.

Your hearing is due in large part to the thousands of delicate hair cells in your inner ear, explains Dr. Adam. When the cells deteriorate – most commonly due to age or noise exposure – you may develop tinnitus, hearing loss, or both. At 72, Clapton’s age as well as frequent exposure to near-deafening music for much of his life are obvious reasons for his tinnitus and hearing loss, Dr. Adam believes. “I’m sure the hair cells in his ears are in very poor shape.”

Of concern to Dr. Adam and his colleagues is the fact that people are developing tinnitus at a younger age than ever before. They blame the trend on the popularity of ear buds. “I tell my patients that ear buds can be safe to use, but if someone else in the room can hear what you are listening to, you need to turn it down.” Noise from lawn mowers and leaf blowers also can damage the hair cells. Protective ear muffs, like those used by hunters, or silicone ear plugs provide sufficient protection and are easy to find, Dr. Adam says.

During Clapton’s interview, the aging rocker expressed his wish that fans view him as more than a curiosity, adding “I’m amazed myself that I’m still here!” His comment refers not only to his hearing loss, but also to nerve damage that has affected his ability to play guitar.