Dave Grohl on His Partial Hearing Loss: ‘I’ve Been Reading Lips for 20 Years’

It’s safe to say that Dave Grohl lives for music, but it may have caused his partial hearing loss. Grohl is always caught in a lot of noise. First, he melted faces as the drummer of Nirvana, then as the frontman of Foo Fighters. However, somewhere along the way, loud music damaged Grohl’s ears.

Dave Grohl performing with Foo Fighters at the Festival Pa'l Norte in 2021.
Dave Grohl | Medios y Media/Getty Images

Dave Grohl on his partial hearing loss

During a 2022 appearance on The Howard Stern Show, Grohl spoke about his partial hearing loss. Stern asked the frontman why he doesn’t wear earpieces while performing.

“It’s not that bad,” Grohl said. “I haven’t had them tested in a really long time. I mean, I know what they’re going to say. ‘You have hearing damage, tinnitus in your left ear, more so than your right ear.’ My left ear is kind of worse than my right because of my snare drum and my stage monitor when I played the drums.”

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Grohl won’t wear ear monitors despite his partial hearing loss

Grohl has partial hearing loss, but he’ll never wear ear monitors. They throw him off on stage. He wants to be aware of everything that’s happening. Plus, the earpieces wouldn’t stay in his ears anyway.

“I’ve tried the ear monitor thing before a long time ago,” Grohl said. “The problem that I have with it is it removes you from the natural atmosphere sound. I want to hear the audience like in front of me.

“And want to be able to turn around and hear Taylor right there and then go over here and hear Pat and go over here and hear Chris and stuff like that.

“It messes with your spatial understanding of where you are on stage. But, you know, that being said, I’ve had the same monitor guy, the guy that mixes my monitors, for 31 years. I mean, the guy is like in my head.

“So even though I’m not using in-ear monitors, my sound on stage for me is f***ing perfect because it’s been the same guy for 31 years, since Nirvana. So I’m not up there just getting my a** kicked by some loud stuff, it sounds great, and I just don’t like the in-ear thing.

“Plus, I have little f***ing ear holes and those things, when I put them in, they just pop out, and I don’t want to look like a praying mantis with like these things all over my head. I gonna go out there and go nuts.

“I mean, I figured that we’ve been playing shows like this for so long, there’s not much I want to change.”

So Grohl deals with his partial hearing loss.

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The Foo Fighters frontman can still hear well in the studio but not in a crowded restaurant

Although Grohl has partial hearing loss, he can still hear extremely well in the recording studio. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case when the musician goes out to eat in a crowded restaurant or talks to someone wearing a mask.

“To be honest, when we go in to make a record, and we’re mixing an album, dude, I can hear the slightest little things. My ears are still tuned in to certain frequencies.

“If I hear something that’s slightly out of tune or a symbol that’s not bright enough or something like that, in the mix, I can f***ing hear the minutia of everything that we had done to that song. I really can.

“That being said, if you were sitting next to me right here at dinner, I wouldn’t understand a f***ing word you were saying to me the whole f***ing time. There’s no way in a crowded restaurant; that’s the worst.

“That’s the worst thing about this pandemic s***, is like people wearing masks. I’ve been reading lips for like 20 years. So when someone comes up to me, they’re like [mumbling]. I’m like, ‘I’m a rock musician, I’m f***ing deaf, I can’t hear what you’re saying.'”

Grohl has been listening to rock music since he was a young kid. It’s doubtful Grohl will stop because of his partial hearing loss. We’ll see if Grohl continued to play music in the wake of drummer Taylor Hawkins’ death.

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