No matter where you live in the world you would have had to be asleep for the past 30 years not to know Huey Lewis & the News. Since the 1980s they have entertained us with the music of our times…..Huey Lewis, (Click to see the David Letterman Video), the group’s lead singer and harmonic player has been involved with the hearing industry since he began to lose his hearing quite some time ago. Many of us remember him not only for his songs and involvement with Marty McFly and the Back to the Future movies of the 1980s but as a consultant for hearing aid manufacturers giving visibility to hearing impairment and the use of amplification.
None of us in practice at the time will forget the campaign for the highly successful Oticon’s Delta products of the early 2000s when the word at the time was, “This is definitely not your grandfather’s hearing aid!” As spokesman for this campaign, Lewis offered a fresh look at amplification and its benefits to the image-conscious, technology savvy Baby Boomers, such as himself. While others have been champions for hearing devices and an the hearing impaired, none seemed to do it with such class and contemporary music that hit a generation, making it “cool to use hearing aids”. Now, that’s really the Power of Love!
Born of humble beginnings in 1950 New York City as Hugh Anthony Cregg, III and growing up in the San Francisco Bay area, he attended prep school, was All-State Baseball, and bound for engineering school at Cornell. Prior to college he studied “hard knocks” learning to play his harmonica while waiting for hitchhiking rides traveling around the US and Europe with no funds sometimes with no place to sleep and little to eat. While ever grateful to those that assisted him during those years, he eventually left Cornell and began playing music full time with various bands, ending up with Clover in the 1970s. The experiences with Clover led other band members to success with none less than the Doobie Brothers, and Huey Lewis to the News. There is a story about his first girlfriend’s father who used to call him “Huey, Lewey”, which became “Lewey”, and then “Lewis”, and that later that became his stage name.
After a few gigs with the News things began to happen, such as hit after hit records, successful albums, acting debuts and even an Academy Award Nomination for the Power of Love! While most of us remember and love the music most will probably not remember his acting debut as the head of the committee auditioning the bans for the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance in Back to the Future! Here is a short video that shows Huey helping Michael J. Fox with his guitar….just before he rejects his character from the auditions. With all his success he developed a noise induced hearing loss as an occupational hazard of playing loud music, but he could still sing and sing very well he has for many years becoming one of the most reliable performers in the industry. Huey Lewis has been a supporter of hearing protection and the use of amplification for musicians for many years.
On April 13, Lewis announced that he had to cancel his 40 date 2018 tour. It was an excruciating decision to have cancel the tour dates for the rest of the year as he has been touring for 4 decades and can only remember cancelling about five shows. The story has been repeated by many over the years and is familiar to audiologists and otolaryngologists, but In his own words here’s what happened:
“Two and a half months ago, just before a show in Dallas, I lost most of my hearing. although I can still hear a little, one on one, and on the phone, I can’t hear music well enough to sing. Lower frequencies distort violently making it impossible to find pitch. I’ve been to House Ear Institute, Stanford Ear Institute, and the Mayo Clinic hoping to find an answer. The doctors believe that I have Meniere’s Disease and have agreed that I can’t perform until I improve.
Therefore, the only prudent thing to do is cancel all future shows. Needless to say, I feel horrible about this and wish to sincerely apologize to all the fans who have already bought tickets and were planning to come to see us. I gonna concentrate on getting better and hope that one day soon I will be able to perform again. Sincerely, Huey”
Lewis also said to his fans, “Clearly we’re not spring chickens, but I have always prided myself on being reliable. I really feel bad for my guys, my team that we’ve been doing this for so many years together”. In a tragic twist, the lifelong rocker says his hearing loss is most severe when it comes to music. “Even though I can hear you, we can talk, I can talk on the phone — I can’t sing,” he told Jenna Bush Hager now of the Today Show, “I can’t hear music. I can do everything but what I love to do the most, which is a drag.”
According to Massachusetts Eye and Ear (MEE) (2018), Meniere’s disease can simply be described as an unstable inner ear. Since the inner ear is the site of the sense organs of hearing and balance, patients with Meniere’s disease have symptoms of fluctuating hearing loss, attacks of vertigo, and ringing in the affected ear and often have a distorted sense of pitch as indicated by Mr. Lewis in this Today Show video. The symptoms usually do not develop all at once; for most people they come on gradually over a few years and he is known to have had shearing loss for sometime due to the noise exposure of performing onstage for so many years. As he indicates, there are no tests that prove a diagnosis of Meniere’s disease. It is a “clinical diagnosis” based upon the patient’s description of symptoms, hearing tests that confirm a progressive or fluctuating hearing loss, and tests that rule out other possible explanations for the symptoms (for example, an MRI brain scan to rule out brain tumor or multiple sclerosis). Meniere’s is also known as Secondary Endolymphatic Hydrops and/or Delayed Endolymphatic Hydrops; specifically in the case when Meniere’s develops in an ear that was previously damaged from some other cause, such as noise induced hearing loss.
Mass. Eye and Ear (2018) also indicates that the objective in the management of a “fragile ear” with Meniere’s disease is to pamper it by protecting the inner ear from stresses. While stress is not the underlying cause of Meniere’s disease, there are many physiologic stresses that can overload the ear and trigger symptoms of hearing loss and vertigo. As Lewis indicates, some two-thirds of Meniere’s patients, are controlled by dietary restriction of salt, caffeine and alcohol; reducing or eliminating the disabling vertigo attacks. By adding a diuretic medication to aid the inner ear’s fluid processing capability there is success for another two-thirds of those who fail to get adequate relief from dietary restriction alone.
- It’s estimated that there are 600,000-750,000 cases of Meniere’s disease in the United States.
- Nearly 60,000 new cases are diagnosed annually.
- About 90 to 95 percent of patients can control their Meniere’s disease with medical management.
- In most cases, it affects only one ear; 15 to 40 percent of patients are affected in both ears.
- Meniere’s disease typically starts between the ages of 20 and 50 years old.
- Meniere’s disease affects men and women equally.
- People suffering from Meniere’s disease are more likely to suffer from depression and/or anxiety.
- People suffering from acute attacks are often not able to work because they must lie down during attacks and remain motionless, and need to sleep after an attack subsides.
“It can get better. It just hasn’t yet,” Lewis said of the inner ear disorder. “I haven’t come to grips with the fact that I may never sing again. I’m still hoping I’m gonna get better. They say a positive attitude is important.” His millions of fans worldwide will hope with him that this destructive disorder is not the end of his career and that his performances will be Some Kind Of Wonderful again very soon!
Hager, J. (2018). Interview with Huey Lewis, May 7, 2018. Retrieved June 12, 2018.
Huey Lewis and the News (2018). Website. Retrieved June 12, 2018.
Lewis, H. (2018). Huey Lewis and the News cancel all 2018 performances. Tweet April 13, 2018. Retrieved June 12, 2018.
Massachusetts Eye and Ear (2018). Meniere’s disease. Retrieved Jun 12, 2018.
Today (2018). Huey Lewis interview with Jenne Bush Hager. Retrieved June 12, 2018.
Wikipedia (2018). Huey Lewis. Retrieved June 12, 2018.
Screenslam (2015). Back To The Future 30th Anniversary: Huey Lewis Cameo with Michael J Fox YouTube.com Retrieved June 12, 2018.
Ira (2016). The Sounds of Silence. RantaPollo. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
Huey Lewis and the News (1985). The Power of Love. YouTube.com. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
Huey Lewis and the News (1994). Some Kind of Wonderful. YouTube.com. Retrieved June 13, 2018.