Famous People With Tinnitus
December 14, 2020

Believe it or not, some of your favorite celebrities also struggle with their hearing. While they may look like they have it all figured out, these celebrities are just as human as the rest of us.

Tinnitus - ringing in the ears - is actually one of the most common hearing problems celebrities experience. This frustrating hearing problem affects people of all ages and several factors can cause it. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Aging
  • Ear infections
  • Earwax blockage
  • Head trauma or injuries
  • Autoimmune inner ear diseases
  • Constant or sudden exposure to loud noise


    Depending on the cause, tinnitus can be permanent or temporary. Brief hearing problems that can be easily rectified often cause temporary tinnitus, while permanent ear damage often causes permanent tinnitus. Furthermore, tinnitus can be mild or severe. Tinnitus patients may function properly without much interference or they may experience severe difficulties going about their daily activities.

    In this article, we will be identifying some of the many famous people with tinnitus and touch on how their hearing problems came to be as well as how they handle such hearing problems. 

    1. Sylvester Stallone

    Micheal Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone, popularly known as Sylvester Stallone, is an American actor, producer, screenwriter, and director born in Manhattan on July 6, 1946.

    When Stallone's mother was about to give birth, she suffered labor complications. The obstetrician had to use two pairs of forceps to aid his birth. Unfortunately, the forceps damaged one of his nerves, resulting in paralysis on the lower left side of his face (parts of his tongue, chin, and lip). The effect of the paralysis gave him slurred speech and a snarling look. The paralysis of his face’s left side could not hamper his success and he has grown to be one of the greatest actors of all time.

    Stallone also has tinnitus, which is not necessarily surprising because of the activities in his movies. Stallones' roles as a super soldier, fighter, or boxer in his movies easily could have contributed to the tinnitus considering one of the significant causes of tinnitus is trauma to the head or head injury. Actors who engage in action movies with lots of violence have received some tough punches on their heads. Stallone seems to have received many of these blows.

    Aside from having tinnitus in real life, in the 1997 crime movie Cop Land, Stallone played a sheriff’s role suffering from tinnitus and hearing loss.

    2. Keanu Reeves

    Keanu Charles Reeves is a Canadian actor born in Beirut September 2,1964 and raised in Toronto. Reeves has starred in many movies, including Youngblood (1986), Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989), Point Break (1991), The Matrix (1999-2021), Constantine (2005), and John Wick (2014). 

    Reeves experiences tinnitus in his left ear. While he has stated in interviews that his tinnitus doesn't bother him anymore, this does not mean that the tinnitus has disappeared. It means that the ringing in his ear is not too distracting, as he has learned to ignore it. Thus, he can go about his normal activities without any interference from his tinnitus.

    3. Ronald Reagan

    Ronald Reagan was an American politician who served as the 40th president of the United States of America from 1981 to 1989. 

    Before he became the president, he was the 33rd governor of California and a Hollywood actor. We decided to add Reagan to this list because of his role in encouraging widespread public acceptance of hearing aids. Reagan suffered from tinnitus in his later years. The exact cause of his tinnitus is unknown but many attribute it to a blank pistol fired too close to his ears when he was on the set of a movie before becoming president.

    Reagan is the first American president to wear hearing aids while in office. This spread awareness and acceptance of hearing aids amongst the general public. Unfortunately, Reagan had Alzheimer’s disease in the last ten years of his life and died of Alzheimer-related pneumonia on June 5th, 2004.

    4. Steve Martin

    Stephen Glenn Martin is an American actor, writer, playwright, comedian, musician, and producer born on August 14th, 1945. In 2004, Steve Martin was ranked sixth on Comedy Central’s list of the one hundred greatest stand-up comics. He has also received 5 Grammy Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, the Kennedy Center Honors, and the Mark Twain Award for American Humor.

    Steve has had tinnitus since 1986. He developed tinnitus while filming "The Three Amigos". The tinnitus was caused by sudden exposure to loud noise from a pistol shoot-out scene. Steve Martin seems to have gotten used to the ringing in his ears because there is no proof that it has any visible effects on his life. When asked about his experience with tinnitus, he responded that you get used to it.

    5. Barbra Streisand

    Barbara Joan Streisand is an American singer, filmmaker, and actress born on the 24th of April 1942. She has achieved tremendous success in multiple entertainment fields and had the rare opportunity to be awarded an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award.

    In 1985, Streisand revealed that she had been experiencing tinnitus since she was nine years old. She doesn't know the cause of the tinnitus, though, she said in an interview that it suddenly started one day while she was sitting in the classroom at school and the ringing never stopped. In a bid to block out the tinnitus noise as a child, Streisand said that she constantly wrapped scarves around her head.

    Streisand said she waited years before seeing an audiologist because she was afraid to find out what it was. With the right diagnosis she has managed tinnitus and reached the peak of her career. She has, however, attributed her short temper to irritation caused by tinnitus. This is not far-fetched because tinnitus noise can cause irritation. 

    6. William Shatner

    William Shatner is a Canadian actor, director, producer, singer, screenwriter, and author born on March 22, 1931. Shatner is popularly known as Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek. He has co-written a series of science fiction novels called TekWar and several other novel sets in the Star Trek Universe.

    Shatner actually developed tinnitus during the filming of Star Trek during a special effects explosion that he happened to be standing too close to. He describes the tinnitus as a loud screeching sound in his head.

    Shatner tried to live with the tinnitus on his own for years without much success until he finally sought the help of an audiologist. With professional care, he has been able to manage his tinnitus. He has also learned to suppress and ignore the ringing noise by retraining his brain to treat the tinnitus as background noise. He says he does this by listening to calming and soothing sounds, reducing alcohol and coffee consumption, and exercising. Shatner is also a vocal member of the American Tinnitus Association.

    7. Whoopi Goldberg

    Caryn Elaine Johnson, professionally known as Whoopi Goldberg, is an American actress, author, comedian, and television personality born on November 13, 1955. Goldberg is one of the few entertainers to have won an Emmy award, Grammy award, an Academy Award, and a Tony award. 

    Goldberg experiences both hearing loss and tinnitus, and she wears hearing aids in both ears. She is very vocal about her hearing problems and she believes her tinnitus comes from many years of exposure to loud music.

    8. Halle Berry

    Halle Maria Berry is an American actress born on August 14, 1966. Berry has appeared in films like Cloud Atlas (2012), the X-Men series (2000-2014), Die Another Day (2002), The Flintstones Film (1994), and many more. She started her career as a model, placing sixth in Miss World 1986 and first in the Miss USA pageant in 1986.

    She is the first Black woman to win the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role and she has also won a Golden Globe Award and a Primetime Emmy Award. Berry lost eighty percent of her hearing ability in her left ear after suffering a blow to the head during a domestic violence incident with her boyfriend. This happened in 1991 while she was filming the movie The Last Boy Scout. The beating punctured her eardrum and she now has reduced hearing in her left ear. Although Berry refused to name her abuser, she has stated that he is a well-known person in Hollywood.

    Aside from being an award-winning actress, Berry is one of the biggest advocates for domestic violence awareness in Hollywood.

    9. Liza Minnelli

    Liza May Minnelli is an American actress, singer, and dancer born on March 12, 1946. She is the daughter of director Vincente Minnelli and actress Judy Garland. Minnelli is known for her award-winning performance in Cabaret in 1972. However, unfortunately, her performance in Cabaret is also responsible for her tinnitus.

    She developed tinnitus during the Academy Awards in 1973. Minelli was seated next to her father when she was announced as the Best Actress award winner for her role in Cabaret. Her father was so excited that he screamed. Since her father turned towards her out of excitement and yelled directly into her right ear. The scream damaged her hearing. As you might already know from Audien Hearing’s article on tinnitus, sudden exposure to loud noise can cause tinnitus and that's exactly what happened to Liza. She has lived with tinnitus ever since.

    10. Joseph Mawle

    Joseph Daniel Turner Mawle is an English actor born on March 21, 1974. He is popularly known as Benjen Stark in Game of Thrones.

    Mawle developed tinnitus when he was sixteen years old after he developed labyrinthitis. Labyrinthitis is a disorder caused by the inflammation of the inner ear or the nerves that connect the inner ear to the brain. An infection often causes this inflammation.

    11. Eric Clapton

    Three-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Eric Clapton has performed with Cream and The Yardbirds in addition to his highly successful solo career. This rock star played electric guitar on stage for years without ear protection, which led to hearing loss and tinnitus. 

    Clapton says he used to turn up his guitar amps and blast music loud enough for his fellow musicians to complain. He continues to perform and live his life, but he now wears hearing aids and takes steps to protect his hearing on stage and in the studio. 

    12. Ozzy Osbourne

    The heavy metal musician from the group Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne once screamed at 105 decibels for 68 seconds.  

    He claims all the headbanging during live concerts caused him to develop tinnitus. Whatever the cause, Ozzy reports hearing a constant whooshing in his ears and wishes he had used earplugs when he was younger. He continues to perform at the age of 72.

    13. Neil Young

    Neil Young of Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fame experiences tinnitus. 

    During mixing production on Weld, a live album and concert video by Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Young suffered hearing loss and became extremely sensitive to loud sounds. His hearing is better now, but Young still experiences painful tinnitus, which frustrates him. 

    14. Historical Figures

    Vincent Van Gogh famously cut off his ear, and some historians think he did it after about tinnitus. Spanish painter Francisco de Goya also had tinnitus, as did Charles Darwin.  

    In addition, American civil rights activist Martin Luther King and composer Ludwig van Beethoven experienced tinnitus. Finally, astronaut Alan Shephard had an ear operation for tinnitus to pilot Apollo 14 to the moon.


    Despite having tinnitus, these famous people have gone on to excel in their careers. This is proof that it is possible to live an everyday life even after being diagnosed with tinnitus.

    All you need to do is seek help from a medical professional (or, more specifically, an audiologist or an ENT specialist) who will explain how to ignore your tinnitus or train your brain to adapt to the noise. Regardless of whether you have been diagnosed with tinnitus, you should always protect your ears from exposure to loud noise to prevent hearing loss problems down. Also, ensure that you report any hearing difficulties to your doctor.

    “Hearing loss and tinnitus can affect all walks of life. Entertainers have a particular struggle because their livelihood can depend on good hearing. Famous people can be role models for all of us with the same problems.” - Drew Sutton, MD, Board-Certified Otolaryngologist.



    What Is Tinnitus? — Causes and Treatment | NIDCD

    Message from William Shatner to You | ATA

    The neuropsychiatric ailment of Vincent Van Gogh | NCBI

    Profile photo for Drew Sutton

    Drew Sutton M.D.

    Drew Sutton, MD is a board-certified otolaryngologist. He has extensive experience and training in sinus and respiratory diseases, ear and skull base surgery, and pulmonary disorders. He has served as a Clinical Instructor at Grady Hospital Emory University for more than 12 years.

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