Pete Townshend of the Who, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, and Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath (and the hit “reality” TV show, The Osbournes) have all told the world about suffering hearing loss during their long careers as rockers. So have their fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Eric Clapton, Neil Young, and Jeff Beck. And the list goes on and on.
Actually, if every aging rock star with NIHL (noise-induced hearing loss) came out of the closet, there might not be enough left with normal hearing to form a band. Fortunately for them and their fans, hearing impairment doesn’t stop a lot of these performers from sounding how they did when they could still hear.
However, the latest rock star to tell the world about his hearing problems has a very different story. Paul Stanley, chief songwriter and frontman of the rock band Kiss, never could hear well. Yet, he overcame that obstacle to co-found a band that has sold over 100 million albums and gained iconic status for its sound and its unique look.
Stanley, who was born in New York City in 1952, reveals in his new memoir, Face the Music: A Life Exposed, co-written with Tim Mohr, that he was born with a condition, microtia, that left him with almost no outer ear on his right side. His left ear was normal and he could always hear sound, but he great difficulty understanding speech. Also, because of his missing right pinna, he couldn’t tell where the sounds he heard were coming from.
Along with impairing his hearing, his physical deformity made Stanley, who was born Stanley Bert Eisen, a target of bullies while he was growing up.
Despite his hearing problem, Stanley was drawn to music. He sang with his family and began playing guitar at age 7. He also watched American Bandstand, where Dion and the Belmonts, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard were among his favorites.
He grew up listening to classical music as well, which his parents liked, and was inspired by the music and example of Beethoven, who wrote some of his greatest work after going deaf.
Over 40 years, Stanley, co-founder Gene Simmons, and their other bandmates have turned Kiss into one of America’s best-known groups and helped usher in the era of arena rock. Kiss was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Stanley established the character Starchild as his Kiss persona, and wore a costume and makeup that hid his abnormal right ear.