Huey Lewis on his hearing loss: It fluctuates from mildly bad to horrible

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Huey Lewis has spoken about his hearing loss (caused by Ménière’s disease) and how it has been debilitating and devastating and led him to contemplate suicide. Reading interviews with Huey has been difficult, and I’ve been hoping that his hearing might stabilize somewhat. Watching him on Jimmy Kimmel Live! was such a treat!

Huey stopped by to chat with Jimmy because Huey Lewis and the News just released a new album, Weather, full of material that they recorded before Huey lost most of the hearing in his left ear. (In the interview, Huey explains that he lost most of the hearing in his right ear 30 years ago.) The interview is so worth a watch, even if you aren’t a fan. Huey tells a fantastic story about backpacking around Europe and Africa after he graduated from high school, on his father’s advice. Here’s some of what he and Jimmy chatted about:

I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease 33 years ago. It fluctuates from mildly bad to horrible. I wear hearing aids. I might [be able] to sing again. I don’t know that yet.

For many years you were singing with only one ear?
Yes. The ENT guy said ‘get used to it. Brian Wilson, Jimmy Hendrix had one ear. I have [hearing in] one ear and I’m in a barbershop quartet.’

Have any other musicians reached out to you?
Tico Torres from Bon Jovi asked me how I was doing. I said not good. He said to me ‘what are you gonna do?’ That’s my mantra now. “What are you gonna do?”

He backpacked in Africa and Europe after high school
I was hitchhiking in Spain. A 1925 Chevrolet hauling an Airstream trailer stopped. It was an old Dutchman who drank a little bit. We stopped at every bar. He drove off a levee into the water. Water up to the floorboards. He grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed the distributor which dried everything out. He drove straight out.

We got to Portugal. I can’t find my passport, it had floated out of my knapsack. Had to go back to Seville.

College kids in Seville found him busking and helped him throw a concert
These kids put up these amazing artistic posters all over town. “Los Blues con Huey.” We had this sold-out concert on the college campus, 1,200 people. [I thought] we were bombing [because the crowd was so silent]. The place erupts in tumultuous applause

[From Jimmy Kimmel Live! via Youtube]

I love Huey’s story about his time in Morocco and Spain. If he’d not lost his passport, he wouldn’t have gotten to give that concert! He would have had a great time in Portugal, but still, what a fantastic outcome from what started as a harrowing and then frustrating experience. And how cool is it that Jimmy found old footage of Huey? I’m bookmarking this to rewatch when I need to be cheered up. I wonder whether Huey would ever consider going on tour and telling stories. He is a great storyteller! Jimmy said that he’d interviewed Huey for an hour at the Grammy museum. I hope that interview surfaces at some point.

Here’s that interview!

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Photos credit: Getty

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15 Responses to “Huey Lewis on his hearing loss: It fluctuates from mildly bad to horrible”

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  1. wildwaffles says:

    My first ever concert was Huey Lewis and the News. He seems like such a nice guy. I am sorry he’s dealing with such debilitating health issues.

    • Some chick says:

      HAHAHA, mine too! Came here to make this exact comment. I want him to come to my next brunch! Hi!

  2. Mireille says:

    Really like him. His music was a part of my childhood. I hope he can get past this and continue to make music.

  3. Anne says:

    When I was a kid, 5 years old…I told my mom I was going to marry Huey. My crush hasn’t ever gone away. He seems like such a lovely person.

  4. Esmom says:

    Thinking about him contemplating suicide has me feeling so sad for him. My dad has almost complete hearing loss (from working around loud equipment for decades) and it is incredibly difficult. He has basically become a hermit because even with the most powerful hearing aids he can’t follow most conversations unless someone yells directly into his ear.

    I’m glad he’s talking about this and telling his stories, I hope he finds strength from supporters and keeps up the good fight.

  5. whatWHAT? says:

    Oh, how do I love this man. been crushing on him for close to 40 years. and he only got better with age. me-OW.

    he attended a prestigious private school (for HS) near me, and my next-door neighbor had been his classmate there. he actually attended reunions! and my neighbor said he was the nicest guy, both in HS and when he showed up as “the famous alum”.

  6. Lindy says:

    I really appreciate him talking about hearing loss so openly, and about how isolating it can feel.

    I have a degenerative, genetic hearing loss. I’ll eventually be profoundly deaf in both ears. The loss kicked in in my early 20s, I’m 43 now and wear hearing aids.

    The ways this affects my life and my family’s life are impossible to even convey in one comment. But the extreme fatigue I have at the end of every day from having to concentrate so hard at work in meetings and conversations is hard to manage.

    Sometimes I get really sad–listening to my kids say I love you, Mama and just wanting to store that sound in my brain forever because I know I won’t be able to hear it in ten years. Or listening to a favorite song and realizing that there are parts of it I can’t hear anymore even with my hearing aids–I’ll never hear the whole song again.

    It really can be isolating. I can’t really go see movies in the theatre. Going to most restaurants is exhausting because of the noise levels. Just… a lot of everyday things are twice as hard for me.

    And I’m not really able to find much connection in the Deaf community because, while this is a genetic condition, the loss doesn’t start until later in life, so I grew up without sign language etc.

    His honesty is so welcome to me. Seriously, it means so much to hear his story.

    • BeanieBean says:

      Your story is very meaningful as well. It may sound trite, but thank you for sharing what you’re going though. It’s helpful for the rest of us to understand what other people are living with.

  7. Astrid says:

    In 2014, Huey held a concert near where we lived in Michigan. We turned the event into a bachelor/bachelorette party (the second wedding for both of us). I’m so glad we got to celebrate our marriage with Huey.

  8. Jane wilson says:

    Back in the mid-80’s I was a radio dj in Canada and decided to move to London with my boyfriend, thinking I’d be welcomed with open arms…which turned out NOT to be the case. Though I was a Canadian, since I sounded “American” I couldn’t get an on-air job. (Americans weren’t too popular in Europe at that time.) Somehow, by hook or by crook and with a ton of luck, I got a job at Riviera 104 (on the French Riviera) and leaving my boyfriend in London to finish his law degree, moved to France. The boyfriend though made regular trips to visit and after returning to Canada for a quick visit with his fam, returned via France bringing the latest from Huey Lewis (“The Heart of Rock N Roll” I think) music we otherwise wouldn’t be getting for months. I loved it and him and Huey and wore that song out that summer. Whenever I think of the Riviera, I think of sunshine and the rocky beaches – and Huey Lewis!
    Sidebar to the difficulties of being deaf: a doctor told me once that if he had to lose his sight or hearing, he’d choose to lose his sight because, “Blindness cuts you off from things – deafness cuts you off from people.” Those who have friends or family affected by deafness know this all too well…people find talking to profoundly deaf people too much effort.
    Hoping Huey get’s some measure of hearing back. Isn’t he lovely?!

  9. StormsMama says:

    All of the above comments echo my respect and appreciation for Huey who was also the soundtrack of my youth.
    One other thing, my brother also has Ménières. He went vegan And cute out salt (he loved pickling) and found that it was more manageable. It will never heal or go away. And once you lose the hearing it’s gone. But it has helped him manage the torturous symptoms of menieres.

  10. Mountainchica says:

    Went slowly deaf in my teens, around 15. It was the most lonely and isolating time of my life. It got progressively worse until I was at about 20-12% hearing in my ears after college. I don’t think I was suicidal but I felt like my life was over. Cochlear implants probably saved my life. I got bilaterally implanted and I’ve never looked back. Hoping he finds a way to cope, if science can’t help him.

    • Lindy says:

      Mountainchica I so wish I could talk to you in real life–my kind of loss makes me a candidate for bilateral cochlear implants and the time is approaching for me to make that decision. I have so many questions.

      • Kristina says:

        Lindy- my childhood good friend (well, we met a small preschoolers and are still friends now in our 30s) had progressive hearing loss. She got bilateral cochlear implants this past year and is so happy she did!

      • Mountainchica says:

        Lindy- not sure if this comment will reach you on this now older post but, my number one though that finally pushed my stubborn self forward was, “What do I have to lose?”. My hearing was already so bad and my quality of life just as bad that it couldn’t possibly get any worse. I saw a therapist beforehand to discuss the possibility of having the surgery with no success. That did prepare my mind somewhat to realize this wouldn’t be a cure. I don’t love relying on technology to hear, but I don’t have a choice, and technology can fail. Tech support is wonderful and I have an army of support in my friends and family, my amazing audiologist, and the company I chose to go with. Best of luck to you.