KISS frontman Paul Stanley wears many hats: that of singer, songwriter, guitarist, father, husband, painter ... and many more. Well, you can add one more hat to Paul's collection, that of spokesperson. Paul has teamed up with the nonprofit House Research Institute on a major initiative called “It's How You Listen That Counts” to educate millions of teens around the world on preventing noise-induced hearing loss.
Paul will be drawing the attention of teens in NYC and L.A. to hearing-health issues through an after-school event called Sound Rules! The event, free for teens, will take place at the Director’s Guilds in NYC on May 4 and Los Angeles on May 12. (For more information on these events, go to soundrules.org. For noise-induced hearing-loss education, go to earbud.org.)
I had the pleasure of speaking with Paul recently about this hearing-loss education initiative, as well as info about the progress of the latest KISS album and how he feels about his impending new-fatherhood.
Celebrity Extra: First, tell me how you got involved with the House Research Institute’s initiative?
Paul Stanley: It just seemed a natural progression, a natural fit. I’ve been deaf in one ear my whole life. I was born like that. Over the past 10 years or so some technology has come available that can help in a case like mine. I became associated, or at least familiar, with some of the people at House Research Institute. In the last year, they’ve really made me aware of some things that are pretty staggering. That’s the epidemic of hearing loss affecting people in this country. You have a 15 percent rise in hearing loss in the past 10 years. That’s more than 37 million people. As far as young people, teens, there is a 30 percent increase in just the past 15 years. But that is pretty staggering.
The problem with it is that once it happens, there is nothing you can do about it, and sometimes you don’t even realize it is happening. It’s very insidious, and the idea is to educate people that you can still listen to loud music and save your hearing. The problem with hearing loss is that it takes so many forms. You have people who can hear what you are saying but can’t understand what you are saying. That is they way you lose certain frequencies, which is very common. So, imagine being able to hear somebody talk but it sounds like they have a blanket in front of their face. Another situation is a condition called tinnitus. With that you can have anything from clicking to buzzing to ringing in your ears that never goes away.
When you listen to loud music, most people will hear ringing in their ears. That’s not to be taken lightly. That’s your ears telling you that you are assaulting them in a way that can cause permanent damage. I think it’s time that people are a little bit more aware of all of this and take it more seriously. I listen to loud music almost nightly, and my hearing is terrific. But I’ve always, always worn earplugs. Music is so loud in concerts and in clubs that even with earplugs in you’re still going to hear everything clearly. You’re still going to feel the vibrations through your body.
CE: It’s good that you’ve taken up this cause, because I am sure a lot of people don’t even realize what they are doing to their hearing.
PS: Understandably a lot of people aren’t aware of the damage that is caused, because many times it’s so gradual that you’re not even aware of it. That’s really how I got involved in it. Not to burst anyone’s bubble or ruin anybody’s party, but the fact is you can do both. You can have a great time, you can listen and have just as much fun and not even be aware of any difference accept you’re saving a hearing. It’s a small price for something very big.
CE: Well, I don’t think anyone will accuse Paul Stanley of ruining anybody’s party! What can you tell me about the May 4 events in NYC and the May 12 event in Los Angeles (both taking place at the Directors Guild)?
PS: I will be there. There will be some cool music. In New York, there’s a great band playing. There will be some education, but in a way that makes it fun. There’s no test, there’s nothing to memorize. It’s just a way to have a good time and also become more aware of a problem that you may be exposing yourself to. It will be fun. If it were a chore or anything like that, you’d have to count me out.
CE: Who are you hoping to reach with your message — obviously teens are a main target audience?
PS: How about everybody! It affects kids, it affects teens, it affects younger kids, and it affects adults. This hearing loss is across the board. It’s something that really does affect everybody. I’ve been telling people, “Look, if you won’t listen to somebody in a white coat, maybe you’ll listen to somebody in black leather.”
CE: How do you protect your hearing, and what advice can you give others?
PS: I’m a fan of over-the-ear headphones, which are kind of larger. But when I listen with those, I can put in an earplug and still blast music. What it does is it blocks out those really harmful frequencies but allows me to really experience the music, not only in an audio sense but also physically. Earbuds are great too. The problem with earbuds is that they really tend to go directly into your ear, blocking everything out. No matter which you are using, if you are not using some sort of device to block the sound, you really don’t want to turn it up more than 60 percent of what it is capable of, because most of these units now are capable of turning your brain to jelly.
CE: On a personal note, I understand congratulations are in order — you and your wife are expecting another child!
PS: Yeah, unbelievable. Unbelievable. It’s great. It’s certainly more than I expected, but so far I’m enjoying every minute of it. It’s just terrific. I’ve got great kids and an amazing wife. Can’t ask for much more.
CE: How do you protect your children’s hearing, especially when they come to see Daddy in a KISS concert?
PS: The little ones wear actual noise barriers that look like headphones. They can be used on a rifle range or they can be used for sound. You can get them in any large music chain, guitar center, etc. They have a kid’s version that goes over the top of the head, and goes over each ear. My older son, who is also a musician, — a guitar player — always wears earplugs and always has. He’s smart. He’ll be glad he did.
CE: Musically, what do you have in store for KISS fans?
PS: At the moment, I’m producing the next KISS album; we start[ed recording in April]. So, that is going to take a bit of time. But it just sounds phenomenal.
CE: Is it too early to say, but do you have an estimate for when the album will come out?
PS: We are too early into it, but I would imagine that it will definitely be out, oh I’d say, late fall or early 2012. It will be worth the wait, I promise.
CE: Lately, it seems a lot of rockers have been releasing tell-all autobiographies. Any chance there will be a Paul Stanley memoir I can upload to my Kindle?
PS: I’m a big believer in what the great author George Orwell said: “The autobiography is the most outrageous form of fiction.” I’m not a big fan of autobiographies, because I have yet to meet anybody who’s not in love with himself. Memoirs tend to be a bit biased. Actually we are in the process of — there will be a book. But the book is not one of those kinds of books. I’ll just leave those books to others. It always seems that whoever writes seems to be at the epicenter of everything great that ever happened. I really don’t have any drive to write those kinds.