The Music Can’t Be Stopped: Life As A Deaf Musician

As a musician, I cannot remember a time that I did not feel sound coursing through every cell of my body. It has always been the innermost part of my being. I feel every tone vibrating within me. Singing brought me a joy that cannot easily be explained. It has to be felt. There is a profound need for expression.

When I was 19 years old, something happened that I did not know would have such an impact on my life. I stood behind a register at work, and a family came up to place a food order. As the father stepped up, a loud ringing started in my ears, and all other sound was gone. I was deaf. I was terrified! I made a polite exit and went to the back of the restaurant and waited for it to pass. It did, thankfully. I pretended that it never happened. The truth of it was too terrifying to deal with. Every time it happened, I tried hard to ignore the implications.

I pressed on, honing my craft as a musician and working to make a name for myself within the local music scene. I wrote, recorded, and performed wherever I could. By the time I hit thirty, I could no longer hide from what was happening. I sought help. These episodes were seemingly random. It was frustrating. I would be perfectly fine one moment and stone deaf the next. I did not realize that the dizziness I had had my entire life was related to the issue within my ears. It took another 15 years, three audiologists, a neurologist, and 3 Ear/Nose/Throat doctors before I would get an answer: Meniere’s Disease.

I thought that meant the end for my music. Who heard of a Hard of Hearing musician? I learned sign language, threw myself into deaf culture, and got involved in the deaf community. I kept that part of my life separate from that with my musician friends. I learned to read lips and fake my way through conversations in loud bars and no one ever caught on. I hid my hearing aides at work and never wore them when I went out to see a band. I felt that if they knew there was something wrong with my ears, somehow that would make me less of a musician.

Now there is a whole new group of musicians coming to the foreground proving that DEAF does not mean living in silence and the music does not have to stop!

Sean Forbes

Evelyn Glennie

This young man calls himself “Deaf Piano Guy” on his YouTube page.

Musicians Without Borders

Warren Snipe

TL Forsberg

Learn More at

Deaf West Theater

We cannot forget the most famous deaf musician to ever live Ludwig Van Beethoven.


Featured image by Alex Bertolini via Flickr, available under a Creative Commons License.