How Brian Johnson overcame a 'horrible kind of deafness' to rejoin AC/DC

Johnson discusses the difficulties he faced as his hearing declined

In 2016, Brian Johnson was forced to step away from AC/DC’s Rock or Bust tour as doctors warned he could go deaf if he continued to perform.

When news first broke that AC/DC would be releasing their new album PWR/UP, fans were relieved to see Johnson would be returning to handle vocal duties. Now, he’s opened up about his experience with Rolling Stone and what his situation looks like moving forward.

“It was pretty serious,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t hear the tone of the guitars at all. It was a horrible kind of deafness.”

While he was performing on the Rock or Bust tour, Johnson admitted “muscle memory and mouth shapes” helped him get through shows. As the tour went on, his hearing continued to decline.

I was starting to really feel bad about the performances in front of the boys, in front of the audience. It was crippling,” he said. "There’s nothing worse than standing there and not being sure.”

After stepping away from the tour, Johnson went to go see a specialist and began to receive treatment to restore his hearing. He received an experimental treatment and described the device used as looking like a “car battery.”

Johnson’s treatment took two and half years with the singer seeing his doctor once a month. “We’d sit there and it was boring as s*** with all these wires and computer screens and noises. But it was well worth it.”

He holds the science behind his treatment close to his chest and opted to not share much information. “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,” he said.

Throughout the treatment process, he continued to stay in touch with his bandmates. When he got the call from Angus Young to record a new album, he felt that he was up to the task.

AC/DC’s 17th studio album PWR/UP is due out on November 13. Check out our interview with Brian Johnson and Angus Young here.

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