Metallica’s Ulrich Talks About Tinnitus

Tinnitus – described as a constant and painful ringing in the ears – is often attributed to constant exposure to loud noises, something Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich is well familiar with.

Ulrich recently talked to CNN about his hearing affliction.

Photo: Greg Allen /
Madison Square Garden, New York City

“It’s this constant ringing in the ears,” Ulrich said. “It never sort of goes away. It never just stops.”

Ulrich told the cable news channel that he’s suffered from tinnitus for more than two decades, but the affliction didn’t begin bothering him until Metallica’s 1988 tour. But while other tinnitus sufferers complain of constant ringing while they’re awake, Ulrich’s problem chose to strike while he slept.

“I would fall asleep often with the television on, and I would wake up in the middle of the night to go turn the TV off,” Ulrich said. “Except it wasn’t actually on. When I realized that I was doing that frequently, actually getting up to turn the TV off that was not on to begin with, I realized that maybe I had some issues.”

Tinnitus seems to be a work-related affliction when it comes to rock musicians. One of the music world’s most notable sufferers is Pete Townshend. The ringing in The Who guitarist’s ears was so bad that acoustically designed glass barriers were constructed around him for the band’s 1989 tour.

What causes tinnitus? While there may be multiple causes, loud noise is often the usual suspect.

“The most reported known cause is noise exposure, excessive noise levels,” doctor of audiology Norma Mraz told CNN. “That can be from machinery, lawn equipment, children’s toys, iPods. Things that people are exposing themselves to repeatedly and not taking the proper precautions to protect their hearing.”

Ulrich says he’s learned his lesson. He carries protection in the form of earplugs – something he didn’t do early in his 35-plus years as one of rock’s most notable drummers.

He’s also spreading the word to young people about the dangers of cranking the volume up past 11.

“If you get a scratch on your nose, in a week that’ll be gone,” Ulrich said. “When you scratch your hearing or damage your hearing, it doesn’t come back. I try to point out to younger kids … once your hearing is gone, it’s gone, and there’s no real remedy.”

Click here to read the complete CNN article.