Huey Lewis Battles Through a Hearing Loss Nightmare

Discussion in 'Awareness & Fundraising' started by housemzk, Feb 7, 2019.

    1. housemzk

      housemzk Member Benefactor

      Tinnitus Since:
      Jan 18, 2018
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      concussions, wisdom teeth removal, neck, jaw, stress, noise?
      From the San Francisco Chronicle this morning:

      The first thing Huey Lewis does when he wakes up each morning is reach one arm away from his body and scratch the sheet with a fingernail.

      Can he hear a sound?

      If he can, Lewis breathes a sigh of relief. Then he listens for the music playing outside on his 500-acre Montana ranch — the bugles of the elk, the flutes of the sandhill cranes.

      But if the veteran rock star can’t hear his fingernails on the sheet, that’s bad news. One year ago, he suddenly began suffering from hearing loss. Now it comes and goes, mostly goes, randomly, a mystery with no last page.

      It first happened before a gig in Dallas. Lewis, 68, and his bandmates were in his hotel room planning the night’s show. Suddenly, to him it sounded like he was standing next to a jet engine.

      “He looked at us and said, ‘I can’t hear a word you guys are saying,’” recalled Bill Gibson, the band’s drummer and Lewis’ friend since high school.

      Lewis did the show that night, struggling to hear and sing. And that was it. The band’s touring schedule for the year, 40-plus dates, was canceled.

      But Lewis isn’t hiding out. He will play in this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament, his 30th (give or take). Most of the time he can converse and can talk on the phone. But performing? No.

      Musician Huey Lewis plays a bunker shot on the fourth hole during the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am at the Pebble Beach Golf Links on February 15, 2015 in Pebble Beach, California.

      It’s a sad development for fans of the Marin County rocker and his band, whose history is intertwined with that of the Bay Area — and the 49ers.

      The team and the band both hit it big in the early to mid-1980s. The 49ers won their first of five Super Bowls in January 1982; the News had its first big album hit in 1982 with “Picture This.”

      “We did national anthems for them,” Gibson said. “When ‘Picture This’ hit, they asked us to play at halftime. The players became fans, Joe (Montana) and Dwight (Clark) especially. They wanted to meet us, we wanted to meet them. We wound up hanging out together a lot, played golf with ’em.”

      Several 49ers sang background on the recording of the News’ 1986 mega-hit “Hip to Be Square,” but all except Clark’s were edited out. When Clark was diagnosed with ALS in 2017, Lewis invited him and his wife, Kelly, to live at his Montana ranch.

      “Huey became an extension of the team back then, and a friend of the organization and the players,” said Carmen Policy, then the team’s chief executive. “Those guys loved him. We’d ask him to travel with us, like to the Super Bowl. It was this wonderful love affair.”

      Fast-forward several decades. In recent years the 49ers’ fortunes have dipped, but Huey Lewis and the News were still filling medium-sized concert venues with loyal fans. Until a year ago in Dallas.

      Lewis’ travel schedule changed. Instead of playing gigs, he journeys in search of answers, and hope. Like a bus-terminal announcer calling out destinations, Lewis ticks off the many clinics and doctors he’s visited, the medications and alternative treatments he’s tried.

      The experts agree that he has Meniere’s disease, an inner-ear disorder with no known cause (genetic and environmental factors are both thought to contribute), no known cure, and no effective treatment. Symptoms can include tinnitus (ringing in the ears), vertigo and loss of hearing in varying degrees. It affects between 0.3 and 1.9 people in 1,000.

      Doctors tell Lewis that a good attitude is important, and he works at that, like when he recounts in a recent phone interview his consultation with an ear expert at the Mayo Clinic.

      “He crosses two fingers and looks at me and goes, ‘There’s a little bit of thisinvolved,’” Lewis says. “This is the Mayo Clinic, for Christ’s sake! That’s all you’ve got?”

      He lets out a hearty, signature laugh. During a long conversation, where topics include suicidal thoughts and the possible end of the News, he laughs a lot.

      He says he rates his hearing daily, on a scale of 1 to 10 — 10 being what his hearing was before the blowout. And it was lousy then, less than half of normal hearing.

      On a level 1 or 2 day, every sound is distorted, lower frequencies violently so: “Like listening to everything through a blown speaker,” he said. To demonstrate, he mimics the sound of crunching metal. “I’m a 4 or 5 today.”

      For Lewis to perform, his hearing would have to be in the 8 or 9 range, and that’s rare. It nose-dived early this year when he was in Scotland for another pro-am golf tourney, where he annually organizes a variety show featuring the celebrities in the field.

      On Thursday that week, he was a level 2. On Friday, his hearing was slightly better as he strolled into a rehearsal “to say hi to the cats and apologize for not participating,” he said. But then he heard the musicians warming up.

      “I realize I can hear the f—ing band!” Lewis says. “I can hear pitch! I can hear for the first time in eight months!”

      One of the singers persuades Lewis to try singing that night, and he gives the audience a rousing “Hip to Be Square.”

      “Boom, I sang it, it was great, I could hear everything!” he said. “Next day, my hearing’s still good. It’s fantastic. Huey’s back! I’m going to sing again!”

      He alerted his band and scheduled a rehearsal, flew back to America and golfed in another pro-am tourney.

      “I play like s—, and I don’t care! I’m happy,” he recalled. “My hearing’s great. Wednesday, I have breakfast with my publicist, I say, ‘I think I’m going to sing again, I’m good.’

      “Thursday my hearing goes to s—, and it’s that way for like a month.”

      By then, word of his comeback performance in Scotland had spread.

      “Everybody says, ‘Oh, he’s back, he’s going to sing again,’” Lewis said. “And I can’t.”

      Along with his hearing loss, Lewis has had severe tinnitus. The poorer his hearing, the more intense the ringing.

      “For the first two months I was like suicidal,” he said. “Really, it can drive you absolutely crazy. After two months of wanting to blow my brains out and not being able to hear anything, I had to figure something out. So creatively, I got involved in our musical.”

      “The Heart of Rock & Roll” is a jukebox musical created by Tyler Mitchell, who grew up in Ross idolizing Lewis. The musical features the News’ hits, and Lewis also co-wrote a new song for it. The show had a successful opening run in San Diego, where Lewis lives part of the year, and there are hopes of a Broadway run.

      Musician Huey Lewis (right) adjusts his hearing aid while standing next to his longtime friend and drummer Bill Gibson in Pebble Beach, Calif. on Feb. 5, 2019.

      His band has a new deal with the BMG label. This spring it’s scheduled to release its first album of new music in 18 years, featuring songs they’ve created and recorded over the past decade. Word of the coming album led many to believe Lewis was back.

      Actually, Lewis does sing, a half hour or so every day. He started doing that recently, at the urging of bandmate Gibson. He sings to keep the rust off the pipes, just in case.

      “I haven’t given up,” he says. “I have not given up.”

      The abrupt halt to the band’s touring was hard on everyone.

      “It was like a gut punch, man,” Gibson said. “We were selling more tickets than ever, we were making more money than ever, everything was on a really great upward trajectory.”

      “The worst part about this is shutting my band down, my 25 guys,” Lewis said of his musicians, staff and support crew. “It’s like a football team, we’ve been working together for 40 years. The truth is, we were still improving. (When you get older) you can be wiser in your music choices, your note choices, and you relax more. It’s not about (vocal) strength or anything like that, and the voice held out, so I think we were as good as we’ve ever been.”

      Musician Huey Lewis on the 17th tee during the 3M Celebrity Challenge before the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am at the Pebble Beach Golf Links on February 11, 2015 in Pebble Beach, California.

      And they are a family.

      “I don’t miss the road at all, the plane trips, but I do miss my guys,” Lewis said. “The camaraderie, the fun we have and the laughs, yeah, that’s what I miss. And the actual live performing, which I loved to do. When you’re having a great gig, when it really sounds good and everybody is on the money, you’re in the pocket, the song sings itself. It’s the most fun thing in the world, it really is.”

      At least he’s still got golf. Lewis is a fixture and a gallery favorite at the Pebble Beach event. He treasures friendships forged there with legends like Bill Murray, Clint Eastwood, Glenn Frey, Glen Campbell, Jack Lemmon and John Denver.

      When he mentions those last four men, it is noted that they are no longer with us.

      “I knew we were going to do this” interview, Lewis said, “so I was thinking about years past at the tournament, and I thought: What about all the guys that are dead? I’ve got hearing loss, but I’m not dead.”
      • Like Like x 5
    2. GregCA

      GregCA Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Thanks Doc!

      Good luck, Mr Lewis. Great to see some awareness going out.
      • Agree Agree x 2
      • Like Like x 1
    3. JohnAdams

      JohnAdams Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Tinnitus Since:
      May 1st 2018
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Aspirin Toxicity/Possibly Noise
      Well then Huey, maybe you should be donating towards bio-medical research aimed at restoring your hearing bro.

      I e-mailed Paul Gilbert about his hearing loss and FX-322, something that could restore his hearing potentially, and either it got lost in his fan mail or he ignored it. The VA needs to be funding this drug.
    4. Ed209

      Ed209 Member Podcast Patron Benefactor Ambassador Hall of Fame

      Tinnitus Since:
      How do you know he hasn’t?

      In either case, it’s something that all of the tinnitus community should consider doing (if one has the means). Unfortunately, this is not the case, and although everybody talks about wanting treatments and/or a cure, it’s only an infinitesimally small amount of people that donate anything.
      • Agree Agree x 2
    5. Jazzer

      Jazzer Member Benefactor Ambassador Hall of Fame Advocate

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      I do appreciate those people who take the time and trouble, and the initiative to try to encourage donations.
      I know that it is no easy job, for sure.

      However, this wretched condition has robbed many of us of our entire income, of all opportunity to work again, in some cases.
      Others more fortunate, tell me that they can still persue their careers, albeit in a slightly different guise, but still generating a pretty good income.

      What I am saying is, leaning too heavily on those who are seriously afflicted by this ‘thing’ may be a mistake.

      Finally, I obviously know that nothing on this post related to me, but in general terms, I feel that this subject is a very sensitive one, and we must not assume that our own circumstances are the case in general.
      • Agree Agree x 1

Share This Page