AC/DC singer Brian Johnson spoke to Rolling Stone about how he managed overcome his hearing loss to record a new album with the band and prepare for an upcoming tour.
The legendary hard rockers postponed the last ten dates of their North American tour in 2016 after doctors told Johnson he faced a total loss of hearing if he did not stop touring immediately. He was eventually replaced on the road by GUNS N' ROSES vocalist Axl Rose.
"It was pretty serious," Brian told Rolling Stone. "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."
Johnson eventually found a specialist willing to try an experimental treatment on him and he spent three years figuring out a solution.
"The first time he came down he brought this thing that looked like a car battery," Johnson said of the specialist. "I went, 'What in the hell is that?' He said, 'We're going to miniaturize 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."
In a 2014 interview with Howard Stern, Johnson said that his hearing loss wasn't entirely caused by his exposure to loud music.
"I've obviously had some hearing loss," Johnson told Stern. "I've got hearing loss in me left ear. I didn't get it from music. I got it from sitting in a race car too long without ear plugs. I heard my ear drum burst, because I forgot to put me plugs in under my helmet. That's how it happened. Music had nothing to do with it."
Johnson also revealed his first hint at hearing loss came when he forgot to put earplugs in when racing at a New York State track more than a decade ago. Five minutes into the race, Brian said felt "a little pop" in his ear and suffered tinnitus for more than six months.
AC/DC will release its long-awaited new studio album, "PWR/UP", on November 13. The first single from the disc, "Shot In The Dark", will arrive on Wednesday, October 7 at 12:00 a.m. EDT / 9:00 p.m. PDT (Tuesday night). The follow-up to 2014's "Rock Or Bust" features AC/DC's 2020 lineup of Johnson, Williams, Angus Young, Phil Rudd (drums) and Stevie Young (guitar).
Last month, images seemingly taken from a new video shoot were apparently posted on the band's official web site before being swiftly removed. The photos, which were obtained by a Brazilian fan site, appeared to show Johnson joined by Rudd, Williams and Angus and Stevie. The pictures were the first of Phil and Stevie sharing a stage following Malcolm's death.
More than two years ago, Brian and Phil, along with Angus and Stevie, were photographed outside Vancouver's Warehouse Studios. Based on the pictures, the assumption was that AC/DC was in the midst of making — or at least planning — another album, with Rudd and Johnson both back in the lineup.