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Paul Simon Reveals Sudden Hearing Loss: "Nobody Has an Explanation for It"

It could mean his days of performing live are over.

Those holding out hope of seeing Paul Simon perform live someday may need to adjust their expectations, according to the singer-songwriter. In a new interview with the Sunday Times, the star revealed that he recently experienced sudden hearing loss that prevents him from playing shows. He also said that doctors haven't been able to determine the cause of the deterioration of his hearing.

The news comes amid the release of Simon's 15th solo album, Seven Psalms, which became available on May 19. The 81-year-old previously retired from touring and was already unlikely to reverse that decision, but he had still given occasional live performances. With this new development, however, even a rare concert seems like a long shot.

Read on to see what Simon shared about his hearing, his outlook, and the future of his career.

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Simon said the hearing loss was sudden and unexplained.

Paul Simon performing at Lincoln Center in New York City in 2018
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Brooks Brothers

In his interview with the Sunday Times (via The Independent), Simon said, "Quite suddenly I lost most of the hearing in my left ear, and nobody has an explanation for it. So everything became more difficult."

Of how he's handling the situation, he said, "My reaction to that was frustration and annoyance; not quite anger yet, because I thought it would pass, it would repair itself." But, so far, that has not happened.

He's been dealing with other health issues.

Paul Simon at the 2016 US Open
Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock

Simon also touched on his overall health in the interview. "Boy, have I been beaten up in these last couple of years," he said. According to Yahoo!, he pointed to a tough battle with COVID-19. "But I look good, right?" he said.

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Simon retired from touring five years ago.

Paul Simon performing at the 2016 Democratic National Convention
mark reinstein / Shutterstock

Simon announced that he was retiring from touring in 2018. In a statement on his website, he wrote to fans, "I've often wondered what it would feel like to reach the point where I'd consider bringing my performing career to a natural end. Now I know: it feels a little unsettling, a touch exhilarating, and something of a relief."

The Simon & Garfunkel singer noted that the death of his longtime guitarist and friend Vincent N'guini was a "contributing factor" in the decision. He added, "Mostly, though, I feel the travel and time away from my wife and family takes a toll that detracts from the joy of playing."

Since 1992, Simon has been married to "What I Am" singer Edie Brickell. They have three children together, Adrian, Lulu, and Gabriel Simon. Simon also has another child, Harper Simon, from his first marriage to Peggy Harper.

He didn't give up the stage completely, however.

Paul Simon at Lincoln Center in New York City in 2018
Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Brooks Brothers

In his statement, Simon explained, "I anticipate doing the occasional performance," and said that he would donate the money to philanthropic organizations, especially environmental ones.

This ended up being exactly what he did. For instance, in 2019, he performed at San Francisco's Outside Lands festival and donated over $1 million to environmental groups, as reported by SFGATE. In 2021, Simon gave a surprise performance at Global Citizen Festival in New York City, which raised money to fight poverty, global warming, and COVID-19.

Simon doesn't miss one aspect of touring.

Paul Simon performing in George, Washington in 1999
Dana Nalbandian / Shutterstock

Simon told the Sunday Times that, even when he did perform live, he didn't enjoy playing all of his hit songs.

"The songs of mine that I don't want to sing live, I don't sing them," he said. "Sometimes there are songs that I like and then at a certain point in a tour, I'll say, 'What the [expletive] are you doing, Paul?' Quite often that would come during 'You Can Call Me Al.' I'd think, 'What are you doing? You're like a Paul Simon cover band. You should get off the road, go home.'"

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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