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AC/DC's Brian Johnson Opens Up About His Hearing Loss: "It Was Crippling"

Brian Johnson on how he overcame "serious" hearing issues to rejoin AC/DC…

AC/DC's Brian Johnson Opens Up About His Hearing Loss: "It Was Crippling"
Words:
Emily Carter
Photo:
Josh Cheuse

As AC/DC gear up to unveil their highly-anticipated new album PWR/UP next month, frontman Brian Johnson has opened up about his return to the band – and how he miraculously overcame "pretty serious" hearing issues in order to write and record a new LP with the rock titans.

Speaking to Rolling Stone about his stint away from the ’DC from 2016 onwards (he was famously replaced on tour by Guns N' Roses' Axl Rose), the vocalist recalls the final few shows in the build-up to the announcement that he would have to hang up his microphone for a while.

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"It was pretty serious," Brian says. "I couldn't hear the tone of the guitars at all. It was a horrible kind of deafness. I was literally getting by on muscle memory and mouth shapes. I was starting to really feel bad about the performances in front of the boys, in front of the audience. It was crippling. There's nothing worse than standing there and not being sure… The docs said, 'Deaf is deaf, son.' Cliff [Williams, bass] and Angus [Young, guitar] didn't want to be responsible for me damaging my ears any further. … Shit happens. At least it wasn't terminal."

Though he doesn't specify the exact treatment that he underwent to fix this hearing loss, Brian details how a specialist worked with him frequently for the following few years.

"The first time he came down he brought this thing that looked like a car battery," he explains. "I went, 'What in the hell is that?' He said, 'We're going to miniaturise it.' It took two and a half years. He came down once a month. We'd sit there and it was boring as shit with all these wires and computer screens and noises. But it was well worth it. The only thing I can tell you is that it uses the bone structure in the skull as a receiver. That's as much as I can tell you."

Of his temporary departure, Brian admits that things didn't quite go the way he had hoped – though he has moved on from the situation these days. "I didn’t feel too good myself about the whole thing," he admits. "But that was then. With all bands and things, there are little bumps in the road."

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