In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle - injury, illness or other hardship –- they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn’t know they possessed. This week KISS singer Paul Stanley explains how he became the frontman for one of the most successful rock bands in America, despite being born deaf in his right ear.
I was born with a Level 3 Microtia, which is a congenital deformity of the cartilage of the outer ear, and occurs in approximately 1 out of every 8,000 to 10,000 births. There is no ear canal and no direct path to the inner-workings of the ear. Except for bone conduction, I’m virtually deaf on my right side, as there is no access for sound to enter.
I’ve had an implanted hearing aid for about two years now. This is a device that is usually given to children at an early age or to adults who have lost their hearing due to a medical condition. This has been an ongoing adjustment for me as my brain has never processed sound coming in from my right side. In the beginning, it was incredibly taxing and extremely confusing. It would be like you are suddenly developing an eye in the back of your head. That said, it has settled in quite a bit and I have to say, it has enhanced my day-to-day activities.
People often ask if my hearing problem has had any impact on my career. It’s sometimes hard for people to understand that you don’t miss what you’ve never had. When blind people speak about seeing or colors, it’s very personal to them.
In the same way, I may not hear music the way other people hear it, but I have nothing else to compare it to, or didn’t for most of my life. I haven’t felt at a loss for anything. I have no sense of the direction of sound, yet I have no trouble mixing a stereo album. I hear the expanse or width of sound but I can’t necessarily tell you where it’s coming from.
Times have changed greatly since I was a child. Medicine, particularly advancements in hearing health, has greatly evolved. If there is a way to improve your hearing, then by all means, take the initiative and do something about it.
To young and old alike, take care of your hearing because once you lose it, you can’t get it back. Use earplugs if you’re exposed to loud noise for prolonged periods of time including concerts. Keep personal listening devices to safe, acceptable levels. There are better ways to listen without sacrificing your enjoyment or your hearing health.
To those of you that suffer from some form of hearing loss, take comfort in the fact that many, many great people have succeeded in monumental ways without normal hearing, or any hearing for that matter.
Hearing loss may be a small pothole in the road, but that doesn’t mean it should stop you from getting where you want to go. I’m living proof!
If all he was missing, was the opening or ear canal, could that not have been repaired surgically ?
Just a guess but he's probably missing the tiny hairs/etc that allow the vibrations to be turned into 'sound'.
In rare cases, the inner ear is fully formed, but in most cases, the conductive hearing loss is fairly complete due to underdeveloped inner ear components, such as the small bones (stirrup, hammer, anvil), and the ear canal and/or ear drum are missing or also severely underdeveloped.
Based on his description, it sounds like he has aural atresia rather than microtia. Microtia causes a deformity of the shape of the external ear, ranging from a mild deformity to a "peanut ear." It is often accompanied by aural atresia which is under-development of the external auditory canal. There is also malformation of the middle ear structures that conduct sound to the inner ear (cochlea). The inner ear is usually totally normal, which makes these patients candidates for bone conduction hearing amplification. For more info, there are surgical experts in treating these specialized patients (Bradley Kesser, MD: atresia repair, University of Virginia and Burt Brent, MD: microtia repair, Private Practice, Woodside, CA)
Since he has had to deal with this for umteen years and and having serious bucket of money, why would it be necessary for the peanut gallery to provide unsolicited medical advise. Any real medical doctor knows better than to make a diagnosis without direct consultation.
It's a shame that it takes a celebrity or someone famous to have, contract, or develop something before it gets recognition, but at least it GETS recognition. Hopefully people with microtia will see this, see it is possible to not only overcome but rise above it, and persue dreams that before seemed unobtainable.
Great article.I am only 41 and I just got a hearing aid for my left ear. I was depressed because I wondered if this is the end of hearing in my left ear.It helps with my tinnitus and I can hear much better, but he is right. It doesn't sound like the hearing in my right ear, but since I have had hearing loss in my left ear, I am not sure if this is what "sounds" should sound like. This article gives me confidence in knowing, perhaps in the future better medicine will help me.
I have hearing loss in both ears (90% loss in my right ear). I am 46 and did not get my hearing aids until last year. I couldn't tell which direction a sound was coming from either. I have learned to read lips also. I also have tinnitus. The hearing aids are wonderful but also very expensive and not covered by my health insurance. I got in touch with my state's (MI) department of labor and found out they have a program that helps working age people who are employed get hearing aids. The program helps keep the handicapped employed. The state paid for 75% of the cost of my hearing aids.
I have been legally deaf for about 10 years. I am 40 years old. I have 90% loss in my right ear and 60% in my left. My hearing has been in steady decline since my teens and I have been a "hearing aid" candidate since my early 20s. But teh problem is, even with insurance, who can afford these things? $1800 for the cheap ones, each. Maybe some day they will consider ears and teeth to be more than just "cosmetic" needs. I can get a prosthetic arm for free from the insurance company, but not a hearing aid. I can get a gender-change operation for next to nothing, but not a hearing aid???? Ridiculous. (and the fact is, I have fantastic insurance compared to most people.)
My 8 year old son was born with Microtia...we are in the process of looking at options for him. Possibly a BAHA (Bone Anchored Hearing Aid) and eventually, plastic surgery on the outer ear. The surgery for the ear canal can be done but it is not always successful...because that ear canal was born closed, when you try to open it, the body tries to close it again (as if healing itself). They have to place a stent in there...there are risks of infection,etc and depending on the inner ear, it doesn't always work.
We live in Missouri and are seeing a doctor(s) at the University of MO-Columbia. My son knows his ear is different but we've never let him feel different. He can do all the same sports and activities as his older brothers. The new doctor at the University was trained in Los Angeles at a world renowned hospital for this disorder.
My son also has ADHD/ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) and has to be on medication. Part of me wonders what effect the hearing loss has had on his behavior. Does it contribute to his frustration? I don't know. There are studies that go both ways on that issue.
I am so glad to know that Paul Stanley has the same thing and it makes me feel better as a parent that my child can still succeed and be a productive member of society despite his physical disability.
I know this is a bit "off topic", but, seriously, "oppositional defiant disorder"???? Wasn't that called "being a brat" not so long ago? Just asking...
My son has a BAHA, the implanted hearing device probably mentioned here, but does not have microtia. As the only child in our area with this, I am bookmarking this article for him! I would show it to him now, but he is off to summer music camp!
My daughter, Emilie, was diagnosed with hearing loss in kindergarten and wore hearing aids. The children at school made fun of her because of the sounds the aids would sometimes make. Em's hearing continued to decline and she had a cochlear implant in 2010. She worked harder and longer than the others in her class, and made it into Cooper Union for college. Hearing loss to the point of deafness never stopped her. Now, due to an accident she is totally blind. Again, hard work and a spirit that is unwilling to give up is pushing her back to recovery and independence. I wish someone like Paul Stanley was there for my daughter as a child to ease her suffering. Thank you, Mr. Stanley!!!!! Thank you cnn for helping other children to know they can do anything with work and belief in themselves.
Susan, your daughter is a very strong person. Those are dual disabilities that would cripple your average adult. I don't know how I would even be able to deal with it if my daughter went though similar trials. You are both inspirations.
Susan, your daughter is an inspiration to all of us! What a girl!!
you're the bomb susan!
I heard your daughters story on RadioLab. Such an amazing story of strength and perceptiveness. I had me in tears (it has me in tears now thinking about it). I wish her all the best in her continued recovery.
Great article. I'm very impressed with Mr. Stanley's writing. I would not have thought that a lead singer of a rock band could be so eloquent.
JeffD, your comment shows that you should not stereotype people.
Most geniuses DON'T flaunt it. That wouldn't be smart.
Paul and Gene are BOTH very intelligent and eloquent speakers, as are Eric & Tommy. Not your typical brainless rockers.
Cochlear implants have been around for some time now. Unless you have such hearing problems, you probably don't know about them. As with most things, they are not for everyone with hearing deficits. Find a doctor (try Otolaryngology or Audiologist) to see if they might help you. The implants aren't a 'magic wand' to fix all the problems, but a good tool that can be used.
Celebrities are a good way to get info out to a wide range of people. This is a very nice, positive article and a good way of giving back to the public. Nice job, Paul Stanley!
Having a working Cochlea, Paul Stanley probably does not have a cochlear implant. There are other implants and options than just a CI. I am constantly educating people on that, because of my son.
Everybody's gonna' move their feet
Everybody's gonna' leave their seat
You gotta' lose your mind in Detroit Rock City.
There are only a few surgeons who are world renowned in microtia reconstruction. One of the best resources dealing with microtia was shown in this story:
Kudos to Paul Stanley for sharing his story.
I had perfect hearing until I was injured in the military and lost a significant amount. This wasn't as bad as the ringing caused by tinnitus. It was hard to get used to that. Then after 15 years I received my first pair of hearing aids and now have to retrain my brain. Its not hard, you don't do anything but you have to deal with the changes and confusion. So I know what you are going through Paul, it will get better.
I am been deaf since birth-my parents had me on CI...I grew up improving my speech but it doesn't help me to understand people's talking.CI r design for hearing people who lost their hearing...I can do ANYTHING expect hear that it.I am currently trying to get impossible job as x-ray technologist. I just want let people know that we deaf people can do it...AND Don't call us "Deaf-mute" ever... it getting really old and annoying....
You are right. You can do anything. Your results with the CI can be due to a lot of different factors including the age when you actually received your implant. I'm sure you have worked very hard to get where you are. I hope you can get an x-ray tech job, no doubt you will work hard to keep it.
My son was born deaf, Jen. You're right, deaf people can do anything, but my son had his implant when he was 14 months old and has grown up with it, so it's not just for people who were born hearing and lost their hearing. He hears and speaks just fine and most people are surprised to find out he is deaf. (His hair is long and covers his processors).
Funny coming from the band which once proclaimed "If it's too loud, you're too old." Guess Paul is too old now
What? well this explains some of his musical ability then.
Thank you for doing this segment! I have ( tinnus) check spelling...alot of my musician friends suffer from this as a result of not wearing ear protection. It's a normal thing to do now...not 30 + years ago. I love that Paul is giving his time and support to people (kids especially) that suffer from this condition!
Thank you again Sanjay
What did he say?
Paul Stanley is by far one of the most talented musicians around. Listen to his solo release, which didn't sell well three decades ago... but when you listen to it now, you see it was far ahead of its time. I was also guilty of not liking it at the time.
He was on George Lopez recently, which made actually a great show.
Paul Stanley's story reminds me of a story my uncle once told me.
My uncle was blinded at the age of 20 in a motorcycle accident and later went to a blind school.
He went to school with children and young adults who were blind at birth. He had a harder time at first because he spent the first 19+ years of his life being able to see, whereas the others had it much easier getting around and they were there mainly to learn how to read braille.
One may think that those born blind or deaf are "helpless" when they really aren't. They have spent their lifetimes learning how to relate to the world without sight or sound. It's something they have never had, therfore they do not feel any real type of loss.
It's analogous to saying that I am helpless because I am not telepathic.
On a side note. People used to believe that deaf people cannot think because they cannot "hear" thoughts.
Gotta love Paul.
Paul's bank account just called and had this to say, "go to blazes all you haters".
Couldn't they just drill a hole in his head?
Wouldn't it be great if this story about hearing loss was captioned for the hearing impaired?
Ironic that I got permanent tinnitus at a KISS concert . . . after having made fun of the people who were wearing ear plugs. Ironic on many levels.
When I was around 3 years old I lost the hearing in my left ear due to childhood disease. I'm told that the disease killed the hairs in the inner ear the translate the sound waves. My right ear to quite a degree has compensated for this loss, but I can't hear sound in stereo. However, I bought a line adapter for my headphones that brings both channels into my right ear, so to a degree that provides me with the full range of the sounds being generated. Is it like stereo? I have no idea, but it is what it is, and my life goes on. Not knowing what it would be like to hear with both ears, I have no sense of loss.
I think a lot of people that heard KISS back in the day assumed that all of them were half-deaf.
I am glad that Stanley has warned against the hazards of loud noise and the lack of people using proper ear protection. I cannot believe the number of people who play their iPods or MP3 players so loud you can hear them from the back of the bus. People tend to take their hearing for granted just like their eyesight. Hearing aids can help but they can be very expensive and have their drawbacks. Nothing is worse than having the sounds of the world limited to you.
Now I know why he always says "I can't hear you" at the shows :)
I suffer from Tinitus as a result of my first concert in 1979. Of course it was KISS. My ears have been ringing ever since that concert. Paul Stanley took my hearing, then he stole my love!
I am a local newspaper reporter whose son was born with the same condition. He is now 5. So far kids are just curious and not old enough yet to be cruel. We are very thankful that his hearing issue is operable (not everyone is a candidate for that surgery as I imagine Mr. Stanley may not have been or he probably would have had it.) We are having surgery with Dr. Burt Brent and Dr. Bradley Kesser, the top two in the nation for this but we must wait until my son is a year older. I just want to thank Dr. Gupta for doing this story and raising awareness of a condition most people are ignorant of (including us, who learned of it at delivery.) I also tip my hat to Mr. Stanley. Thanks for being so classy and for sharing your story so that it can help kids like my son. He loves music and knows every Beatles song. We will make sure he knows your work, too.
This is interesting to know, I have a bilateral microtia-atresia and I currently wear a BAHA on both ears and love it. I got the implants two years ago and I don't regret it. However, the article doesn't say which hearing implant Paul is wearing. There is Vibrant® Soundbridge® and BAHA (Bone Anchored Hearing Aid) so we do not know which one he is talking about. Thanks for the article on your awareness. Two thumbs up!
Dear mr Stanley, thank you for explaining about your ear problem in sharing your story. I have the same problem; I am now 18 years old dealing with my problem. I've felt embaressed which is why I kept my hair long for a long time because i was so embarresed of people kept asking me what happened to my ear. Sometimes i feel bad about my problem but when I get busy doing things i forget all about it but i will always remember that i have the feeling of my right ear. I hears that u helped alot of kids. Is there anyway u can help me?? Btw I've been keeping my hair really short during the spring and summer and i try to forget all those bad kids that just laugh i just ignore it. Please respond
Thank you for opening up to the public about your hearing loss. My son has a profound bilateral sencerial neral hearing loss and is a HUGE KISS FAN!...He as been wearing a cochlear implant since the age of two, and his dream is to play the drums in a rock band...and you are a huge insperation on his life. Not one day goes bythat he does not wear his KISS t-shirts or fills the house with your music......thank you thank you for beeing a part of his music filled life..
I never knew this about one of my favorite rock groups...thank you for coming out and speaking of the topic of hearing loss...I am relieved and glad to hear someone became successful who has hearing loss....I appreciate this story...ROCK ON!!! ALSO....HAPPY FATHER'S DAY.
As a fellow musician myself, I can empathize with others who have had to overcome hearing impairments. I have tinnitus, a permanent ringing in my ears that, in my case, was the result of too many years of over exposure to loud music. My hearing is just fine, but the tinnitus adds a high-pitched "whine" that is always there, and especially noticeable in very quiet moments. Many Americans who aren't even musicians suffer from tinnitus – such as factory workers, construction workers, TV and radio announcers, etc., and once you have it, it will never go away. I wish I had been warned about this reality a long time ago, it is entirely avoidable with the use of ear production. Help spread the word so others may not have to suffer what can be a very difficult lifetime of "nonstop whining." If you would like to learn more about the reality of tinnitus, including what kind of volume your ears can handle for how long, read my article "Do you ever hear the sound of true silence?" http://nashvillemusicianssurvivalmanual.com/Blog/?p=858
Tinitus blog http://nashvillemusicianssurvivalmanual.com/Blog/?p=858
My son was born with left sided microtia/atresia. He just finished up his 4th and final surgery to create his new beautiful ear! Such brave little kids that undergo this. :) He totally wanted to have a "normal" ear and so we thankfully were able to go to one of THE best plastic surgeons (in ATL). The next stage of creating the ear canal is recommened before 1st grade actually. Depending on if he qualifies (scan to see air space around hearing bones and facial nerve position) we will see when he would want to have this last surgery. We are so blessed to have the medical technology now to help our children!! It's so cool to see such successful people out there and living out their dreams!! It's an inspiration to us as parents who only want the best for our babies. :)
Hi Paul I used to have people ask me if I was related to you because I could practically be your younger twin but I am female I also.love to sing and my birthday is Jan 25 sincerely best regards Tami B
Hi Paul , I slowly lost my hearing over the years. I started out with hearing aids and now I have two cochlear implants. It is the first time that I have heard the birds sing in the morning.
I loved to dance and I still feel the vibrations to do this. You have a gift to be an excellent musician. You are a mentor for many people who have hearing problems who can succeed as a professional singer, musician or dancer.
I loved the Kiss Band.... and I love also Gene Simmons. I wish you and the band the very best. Kiss is a legend Laura
This way I feel about being hard of hearing. I tell people that I am hearing impaired and they need to look at me so I can read their lips so I can hear them... I have been called a snob,mentally impaired ( because I have a hard time to express myself in writing....Have them repeat so many times and they don't understand why are you doing this.
Some people are more than generous to communicate with me and others are extremely to repeat a couple of times. Sometimes I feel like saying close your ears and see what it is like....
I'm a little late chiming in, but I never would have thought Paul and I would have something in common. I was also born with microtia on my right ear. I've been lucky that through all my life I've never had issues with people teasing or harrassing me about it. I was always given support by my family, teachers and friends. It's great to see how much success he has had and he has now has had a bone conduction inplant. I myself, a 37 year old, mother of two and a wife, am finally looking at getting this inplant too. Lucky for me my hearing in my left ear is great but having this now be an option for me is exciting and at time overwhelming. For those of you who know someone with this condition just remember to be kind and supportive. I've also been asked several times if I wanted reconstuction surgery for my right ear and I've always declined. God made me this way and I'm not embarassed or ashamed of what it looks like. People ask me what happen to my ear...my reponse is always the same. Nothing, I was born this way. Most people ask more questions and that's a good thing. I always remember that no one is perfect and everyone wishes there was something they could fix about themselves. ROCK ON, PAUL!
Susan, you made me cry so much! I wish for Emily and for all your family all the best!!
great story of strength and will to live, from Stanley and from Emily! =)
Can you people posting theories about what microtia is please stop. I is basically a congenital defect, your ear does not work and may be completely in some cases. In others it may work to some degree. The bones in the ear drum and ear canal are usually improperly formed as well.
My 6 month old daughter was born with level 3 microtia. Thank you Paul for this article, it gave me a lot of hope!!!
la verdad que yo tengo un hijo con el mismo problema de la orejita del lado drecho que el quiere que se lo cure por motivos que en el colegio lo marginan lo insultan y hasta lo golpean , la operacion aca en el peru es de 6000 soles aprox y solo es una de las tres que se requiere para que su oreja este igual que la otra aveces viene llorando a la cas de lo que esl le sucede y yo le doy aliento para que se olvide de eso , lo bueno es que es responsable saca buenas notas en el colegio y es estudioso ,el nombre de mi hijo de edad de 10 años se llama Miguel Angello Rene Garcia Jimenez y la verdad si alguien me pueda ayudar a costear dichso gastos etare agradecido mi nonbre es Rene Miguel Angel Garcia Luyo y vivo en Lima-Peru
mi telefono es 999445432
mi correo es firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you, I have recently been looking for information about this topic for a long time and yours is the best I have came upon till now. However, what about the conclusion? Are you certain in regards to the source?|What i don't understood is in reality how you're no longer really much more smartly-liked than you might be now. You're so intelligent.
Thanks for the great article!
I'm 15 years old with microtia and playing guitar, this post really made my day and gave me hope.
I truly understand everything written here, being a musician with microtia.. you can create and play music just like everyone else, you just can't tell where the sound is coming from, it's still pretty ironic.
i have microtia and im 13 and i usually feel depressed about my ear and i always hide it under my long hair because im worried that if a girl that i like sees it she will think im ugly
I have the EXACT deformity - aural atresia - no hole in my left ear!!! I am 52 years old and have never known anyone to have this! When he talked about "brain shadow," I thought, that's it man, that's exactly what I have. My family was afraid to get the operation for me when I was a kid - now at 52 I am considering BAHA as soon as I get Obama Care! LOL!!!
Don't I feel special - I have the same deformity as Paul Stanley does! As a lover of all Rock n Roll, this makes me very proud for some reason! Rock on!
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