Huey Lewis Opens Up About His Hearing Loss
Huey Lewis was forced to cancel his slate of 2018 concerts last April after he was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, an inner-ear disorder. In a new interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, he says he hasn't given up.
The singer first became aware of the problem before a show, when he was in a hotel room with his bandmates and suddenly everything sounded like a blur. "He looked at us and said, ‘I can’t hear a word you guys are saying,’” drummer Bill Gibson told the paper. They played the show that night anyway, but Lewis struggled through it, and the rest of the tour was canceled.
“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.”
Maniere's disease has no known cure or cause, and there's no treatment for it. Experts think genetic and environmental factors may have something to do with it. They're not sure. And in Lewis' case, it comes and goes. He told the Chronicle that he rates his hearing every day; at his worst, every sound is distorted – “like listening to everything through a blown speaker,” he said.
Lewis noted he has to have an above-average day to perform live these days, but that's rare. Earlier this year, he sang one song at an event. “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!” But a few days later, "my hearing goes to shit, and it’s that way for like a month.”
On top of the Maniere's disease, Lewis also has tinnitus. “For the first two months I was like suicidal,” he recalled. “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, Lewis got involved with the jukebox musical The Heart of Rock & Roll, which played in San Diego and is aiming for a Broadway run; he even wrote a new song for it. He also signed a new record deal for the first Huey Lewis and the News album in a decade, and the first featuring all-new songs in 18 years. The album includes material written and recorded over the past 10 years; it's due in the spring.
But right now, it doesn't look like they'll tour in support of it. Lewis said he sings every day, just to keep his voice in shape. “I haven’t given up,” he said. “I have not given up.”