Meniere's onset leads Huey Lewis to cancel tour

A UW Medicine otolaryngologist discusses how the disease might affect the singer. 

Singer and performer Huey Lewis announced April 13 that he was canceling the remainder of the 2018 tour with his band The News. His statement indicated that he had been diagnosed with Meniere’s disease and that he “can’t hear music well enough to sing.”

Dr. Jay Rubinstein is professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine and director of the Virginia Merrill Bloedel Hearing Research Center. Rubinstein offered this context about Meniere’s and hearing loss based on Lewis’ statement:

On developing rapid hearing loss:

“Meniere’s is usually a unilateral (single-ear) disease, so if someone reports suddenly losing hearing with a diagnosis of Meniere’s disease, it implies that one of his ears already had hearing loss. There are people who have bilateral Meniere’s but it would be very unusual to suddenly lose hearing in both ears from Meniere’s disease.”

Being on stage in front of loud amplifiers and speakers would not generally make you deaf.  It would give you noise-induced hearing loss but would not generally produce deafness.“

Would the Meniere’s alone be disabling for a performer?

“Meniere’s disease produces attacks of vertigo associated with fluctuating hearing loss – but not everyone with Meniere’s gets vertigo.  Some people have of variant of it that involves less vertigo and more hearing loss.”

Possibility of diplacusis:

“If Meniere’s is present in one ear, it’s possible that the other ear either never functioned or that he has lost hearing in it over time. However, since he also describes pitch distortions, it’s possible he has good hearing in one ear and the Meniere’s-affected ear produces such a distorted pitch that he finds it too difficult to sing – because he’s getting mixed information: One ear is producing an accurate pitch and the other ear is producing an inaccurate pitch. That’s a condition called diplacusis.

No one’s looked at the natural history of diplacusis in Meniere’s.  While diplacusis is annoying to people, it’s only of huge career importance in musicians.  If you’re simply an audiophile – someone who loves to hear music – and the pitch you hear is off by a half-step in one ear, you can plug that ear and you’ll get accurate pitch in your good ear. But if you’re the one who’s singing, plugging your ear doesn’t help because you hear your voice whether your ears are plugged or not.”

This content may be reproduced in part or whole. To interview Dr. Rubinstein, contact Brian Donohue at UW Medicine: 206.543.7856;

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Tags:otolaryngologyhearingMeniere's disease

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