Mick Jagger needs heart surgery and Pete Townshend can’t hear anymore (a shocking development). It’s so bad that old rockers have formed their own nonprofit to deal with hearing loss.
The Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers (HEAR) has actually been around since 1989. It was founded to raise awareness about exposure to extreme noise and the kind of hearing loss that results.
The Who’s Townshend was one of its co-founders. In 2017, he took a one-year sabbatical for mostly artistic reasons, though his continuing struggle with tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and hearing loss also played a role.
And in March of 2018 his bandmate, Roger Daltrey, admitted during a solo show at the Hard Rock Resort in Las Vegas that he had serious hearing issues. He basically said he was deaf and needs to use a combination of high-tech hearing aids and lip-reading to continue performing.
He also advised rock-and-roll fans to “ … take your [expletive] earplugs to the gigs. If only we had known when we were young …”
That is actually one of the primary goals of HEAR, to get younger musicians and concert goers to use earplugs and listen to the old guys and gals.
It’s too late for the older generation, who use in-ear monitors (IEMs) to compensate. These are in some ways the precursors of today’s high-tech hearing aids. They were developed to work like stage monitors, with the ability to mix the sound that musicians were hearing while they played. Most digital hearing aids on the market today bring this capability to everyday life.