will.i.am health: The voice judge discusses ear condition that changed his life

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Many know will.i.am as the judge on The Voice, the prime-time BBC One talent show, but he is also a rapper, producer and entrepreneur who first shot to fame as member of Black Eyed Peas. He has contributed to The Voice UK as a mentor since 2012 and also serves as a coach on The Voice Kids. Born William Adams, he was raised by his single mother in Estrada Courts housing projects in Los Angeles. His mother encouraged his musical ambitions and sent Adams to affluent West Los Angeles public schools where he met his future member of The Black Eyed Peas music group. The band gained massive notoriety around the world and won many awards. 

Never one to conform and be put in a box, Adams explored his DJ skills, producing, entrepreneurship and later judge and mentor for upcoming young talents. 

His life of constant music eventually took it’s toll on his health and was told by doctors that he had a chronic condition, known as tinnitus.

The music legend was told that he would eventually have irreversible hearing loss due to his condition.

Speaking to the Sun, will.i.am said: “I can’t be still. Work calms me down. I can’t be quiet, as that’s when I notice the ringing in my ears.

“There’s always a beep there every day, all day. Like now. I don’t know exactly how long I’ve had this, but it has gradually got worse.”

The British Tinnitus Association described tinnitus and said: “It is the perception of noises in the head or ear which have no external source.

It is not a disease or illness, it is a symptom generated within the auditory system and usually caused by an underlying condition. 

The noise may be in one or both ears, or it may feel like it is in the head. Occasionally people have tinnitus that can seem like a familiar tune or song and this is known as musical tinnitus or musical hallucination.”

Sounds of tinnitus can be:

  • Ringing
  • Buzzing
  • Whooshing
  • Humming
  • Hissing
  • Throbbing
  • Music or singing

“I don’t know what silence sounds like anymore. Music is the only thing which eases my pain,” he explained.

Adams is not the only musician who has suffered with tinnitus.

Among the other musicians who’ve shown symptoms of tinnitus over the years: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Paul Simon, Neil Young, Moby, Bono and even Beethoven.

In light of his devastating condition, will.i.am decided to dramatically change his diet, and he became a vegan.

“I’m violently vegan,” he explained, and said he was “fighting for a healthier me and a healthier planet.”

The NHS said: “It’s not always clear what causes tinnitus, but its often linked with some form of hearing loss, conditions such as diabetes or thyroid disease, anxiety or depression or taking certain medications such an non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

“If the cause of your tinnitus is unknown or can’t be treated, your GP or specialist may refer you for a type of talking therapy.

Tinnitus retraining therapy may be available on the NHS for people with severe or persistent tinnitus.”

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