Dave Grohl Reveals Hearing Loss, Says He's Been Reading Lips for 20 Years: 'I'm F—ing Deaf'

Dave Grohl said he has tinnitus in his left ear, but would rather not perform with in-ear monitors

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Dave Grohl. Photo: VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

After decades spent rocking out on stage night after night, Dave Grohl is starting to pay the price when it comes to the status of his hearing.

The Foo Fighters frontman, 53, described himself "f—ing deaf" during an appearance on The Howard Stern Show last week, and explained that he's relied on reading lips for the past 20 years.

"I haven't had them tested in a long time — I mean, I know what they're gonna say," he said of getting his ears looked at by a doctor. "'You have hearing damage tinnitus in your left ear, moreso than your right ear.'"

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Grohl said he finds it extremely difficult to hear other people in public places, and has struggled during the pandemic, as people's masks cover their mouths and he can no longer rely on lip-reading.

"If you were sitting next to me right here at dinner, I wouldn't understand a f—ing word you were saying to me, the whole f—ing time," he told Stern. "There's no way. In a crowded restaurant, that's worse. That's the worst thing about this pandemic s—, it's like, people wearing masks. I've been reading lips for 20 years, so when someone comes up to me and they're like [garbled noise], I'm like, 'I'm a rock musician. I'm f—ing deaf, I can't hear what you're saying.'"

Tinnitus, which Grohl said he has in his left year, is a ringing in the ear that can develop over time when ongoing exposure to noise damages tiny sensory hair cells in the inner ear that help transmit sound to the brain, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Despite Grohl's conversational struggles, he did say he's still able to hear "the slightest little things" when recording in the studio and mixing albums.

"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 f—ing hear the minutiae of everything that we have done to that song; I really can," he said.

While many artists wear in-ear monitors while performing in order to give them a direct source of sound and to protect their ears, Grohl does not, as he finds it "removes [him] from the natural atmosphere sound."

"I wanna hear the audience like, in front of me and I want to turn around be able to hear Taylor [Hawkins] right there and go over here and hear Pat [Smear], and go over here and hear Chris [Shiflett] and stuff like that," he explained. "It just messes with your spatial understanding of where you are on stage."

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Grohl told Stern that he's relied on the same person to mix his monitors for the past 31 years, who ensures that "the sound on stage for me is f—ing perfect."

Grohl is not alone in his hearing struggles; other rockers, including The Who's Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, Neil Young and Eric Clapton, have all developed issues after spending years performing for loud crowds with even louder instruments.

"I am very, very deaf," Daltrey reportedly told a Las Vegas crowd in 2018. "And I advise you all — all you rock-and-roll fans — take your f—ing earplugs to the gigs. If only we had known when we were young… we are lip-reading."

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