KISS Vocalist Urges Teens to Turn Down the Music

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to speak with rock legend, Paul Stanley. You may know him as the lead vocalist from the rock band KISS, famous for songs like "Rock and Roll All Night" and "Shout It Out Loud." And I don't think there are many people who wouldn't recognize his iconic black-and-white makeup and leather stage outfits.

But what you may not know about him, that I think makes him even more remarkable, is that his rise to rock and roll fame was done with a hearing impairment that makes him virtually deaf in his right ear.

The condition is called microtia, and it's a deformity of the outer ear. In Stanley's case, he also lacks an ear canal. Without a canal, sound has no way of traveling to his inner ear.

Until about 10 years ago, there was no way of dealing with this condition, other than rebuilding an ear canal. Now, a device exists that is essentially a bone conduction unit, that allows sound waves to bypass the ear canal and be processed by the inner ear.

Stanley uses a bone conduction unit on a day-to-day basis, and is able to be turn it on and off at will.

Because he was born with this condition, he says he is extra vigilant when it comes to protecting his hearing in his left ear.

That's why he's recently gotten involved in the crusade to make teens aware of the dangers of hearing loss from exposure to excessive noise. He calls the astronomical rise in hearing problems among teenagers an "epidemic" - which isn't really an exaggeration.

Statistics show that adolescent hearing problems have risen 30 percent in the past 15 years. That's about 1 in every 5 teenagers who are suffering from some kind of hearing loss.

The rise is, in part, due to the popularity of loud activities teenagers take part in - going to concerts or cheering at football games, for example. And then, of course, there's always those ever-present iPod earbuds they're plugged into from morning to night.

Stanley recommends that people protect their hearing, like he did growing up, by putting in ear plugs at concerts or clubs for at least some of the time - even when listening to KISS songs! This cuts out the most harmful sound frequencies and lets the ears recuperate.

He also has a message that I think a lot of teenagers need to hear: Turn down your music. Keep the volume of personal music players down around 60 percent. And headphones, no matter how uncool you think they may look, are much better for you than the newer earbuds that go directly into the ear.

Hearing damage can have a lot of different symptoms. Some people might hear ringing or roaring in their ears. Some may lose the ability to hear certain frequencies, which could render them incapable of understanding speech.

"You can never get back what you lose," Stanley warned. "Especially with hearing."

"It's not uncool to protect your hearing," he added. "It's not uncool to protect your health."

Visit for more information and advice on how to protect your hearing.