Eric Clapton has revealed that he is losing his hearing. In a new interview on the BBC Radio 2 program Steve Wright in the Afternoon, the 72-year-old rock legend confirmed that he is suffering from tinnitus, a ringing in the ear caused by exposure to excessive noise. Clapton also suffers from chronic nerve problems that have affected his hands, making guitar playing a challenge.
Eric Clapton has drastically cut back on his shows due to his hearing ailment and the issues with his hands, but he has vowed not to give up music, even if it means only playing a handful of live shows going forward. For 2018, Eric only has one scheduled show, at the British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park in July.
“The only thing I’m concerned with now is being in my seventies and being able to be proficient,” Eric Clapton told BBC Radio 2.
“I mean, I’m going deaf, I’ve got tinnitus. My hands just about work. I mean, I am hoping that people will come along and see me [for] more than [because] I am a curiosity. I know that is part of it, because it’s amazing to myself that I am still here.”
Even before his tinnitus diagnosis, Eric Clapton, who has recorded some of rock’s biggest songs, including “Wonderful Tonight,” “Layla,” and “Cocaine,” previously told Rolling Stone he planned to slow down as a septuagenarian.
“When I’m 70, I’ll stop,” Clapton told Rolling Stone in 2013. “I won’t stop playing or doing one-offs, but I’ll stop touring, I think.”
Eric Clapton is not the first rock music icon afflicted with tinnitus. The Who’s Pete Townshend also suffers from the condition. Townshend’s bandmate Roger Daltrey revealed the legendary Who guitarist has been suffering from deteriorating hearing for years, telling the Daily Mail in 2011: “Pete is almost stone deaf. He deafened himself in the recording studio, and when we last performed he had to stand right next to the speakers to hear anything.” Daltrey later revealed that he is also suffering from noise-induced hearing loss.
AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson was told by his doctors that if he did not stop touring he would be at risk for total loss of his hearing. Johnson, who is also a race car driver revealed to Sirius Radio’s Doron Levin that he forgot to put earplugs in when racing, then felt “a little pop” in his ear and he suffered tinnitus for about six months afterward. Johnson’s hearing issues worsened during AC/DC’s Rock or Bust tour, and he ultimately stepped down from the band he fronted since 1980.
In addition, rock legends Sting, Neil Young, Jeff Beck, and Ozzy Osbourne all suffer from hearing loss after decades in the music industry. The group Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers (HEAR) has quoted that “60% of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are hearing impaired.”
Eric Clapton is a three-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and an 18-time Grammy Award winner. Clapton has played with the Yardbirds, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominoes, and more. Eric Clapton has also had a successful solo career that spawned one of his biggest hits in the 1990s, “Tears in Heaven,” a tribute to his late son, Conor.
Eric Clapton’s life is the subject of the upcoming Showtime documentary Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars, which premieres Feb. 10, 2018.