Dave Grohl has gone into detail about how he deals with hearing loss as a professional musician.
The Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer opened up about having tinnitus — a condition that causes hearing loss, ringing or other hearing challenges — in conversation with Howard Stern last week, describing the accessibility issues he faces on a regular basis.
“If you were sitting next to me right here at dinner, I wouldn’t understand a fucking word you were saying to me the whole fucking time,” Grohl, 53, said. “There’s no way. In a crowded restaurant — that’s the worst.”
“The worst thing about this pandemic shit is people wearing masks. I’ve been reading lips for, like, 20 years,” he said. “I’m a rock musician. I’m fucking deaf. I can’t hear what you’re saying.”
Stern asked Grohl why he doesn’t wear earpieces on stage to help protect his hearing, especially since Grohl said his hearing loss is due to his profession.
Grohl’s response illustrates how there isn’t always an easy one-size-fits-all fix for every accessibility issue.
“I tried the ear monitor thing before, a long time ago, and the problem that I have with it is it removes you from the natural atmosphere sound,” Grohl said. “It messes with your spatial understanding of where you are on stage.”
“I want to hear the audience in front of me,” he told Stern, “and I want to be able to turn around and hear [Foo Fighters drummer] Taylor [Hawkins] right there, and then go over here and hear [guitarist] Pat [Smear], and go over here and hear [guitarist] Chris [Shiflett].”
He added that he relies heavily on his monitor engineer Ian Beveridge, with whom he’s worked for 31 years, to make sure the band’s sound is up to snuff.
“He’s in my head,” Grohl said of his working relationship with Beveridge. “So even though I’m not using in-ear monitors, the sound on stage for me is fucking perfect.”
Grohl also explained that despite his hearing loss, he’s still capable of achieving the sound he wants in the studio.
“When we go in to make a record, and we’re mixing an album, I can hear the slightest little things,” he said. “My ears are still tuned in to certain frequencies, and if I hear something that’s slightly out of tune, or a cymbal that’s not bright enough, or something like that ― in the mix, I can fucking hear the minutiae of everything that we had done to that song.”
In September, Grohl talked about his tinnitus with the BBC, saying that he’s had the condition for about 30 years and that his “left ear’s pretty much almost gone from the snare drums and the monitors.”
“When I turn off the lights at night it’s like, ‘Eeeeeeeeeeee,’” he said.
But it seems that he’s pretty used to it, and it even has its perks.
“If I’m at home with my kids, and they’re running around making noise, I just take naps with my good ear on the pillow,” he joked.