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June 14th, 2011
07:16 AM ET

Human Factor: KISS frontman Paul Stanley hears music differently

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!


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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.