I was a music critic – until I started going deaf. So I wrote a musical about hearing loss

At 31, former music critic Tom GK is going deaf. So he decided to write a musical about it and take it to The Fringe, he tells us

I made the decision to give up being a music critic – my dream job – between songs at a Foo Fighters gig in 2011.  No, I don’t like them that much either, but my decision had nothing to do with Dave Grohl and his chums. The problem was with me and, more specifically, my ears.

Up to this point I’d done it all right. I’d spent hours growing up wearing out VHS tapes trying to get the moonwalk right, played in two school bands, I’d had my heart broken to the soundtrack of Bob Dylan and snogged my way through sixth form parties with Electric Six and Franz Ferdinand.

At university I had joined the student newspaper and had fallen in love with writing about all of the music I adored.

And unlike everything else that was cool, it appeared this was something I was good at. I managed to start writing reviews for The Daily Telegraph. Eventually, I was even asked to review Bob Dylan for them. Bloody hell.

All this time, however, I had a terrible secret: my hearing was bad and getting worse. Too petrified to admit it, I left it, ignored it and distracted myself.

Quick pause: If you ever have any hearing loss, get it checked out. There’s lots of reasons why it can happen and you’ll almost certainly find getting it sorted isn’t nearly as scary all that. Leaving it only means you’re suffering in silence longer. And we all know suffering in silence is shit. 

Anyway, back to the story: every now and then hearing loss isn’t caused by something that’s essentially fine and means you’re normal. No, it’s caused by two apricot-sized tumours lodged in your head. And guess who got that golden ticket? Yep, it was little old me, the aspiring music critic. Life has the shittest sense of humour.

I was eventually diagnosed with Neurofibromitosis II, a rare disease that means my body likes to make tumours, especially near my ears. 

It was this that was making Dave Grohl’s mid-song patter not just banal but inaudibly so and it was this which slowly made being a music reviewer an impossibility. This year, I’m telling my story in Hearing Loss: The Musical, a tuneful up yours to rare genetic diseases and non-cancerous tumours, the Devil’s Ant and Dec.

Spoiler alert: seven years later I’m still able to perform a musical.

The show’s grand message is “don’t be the idiot I was and get your ears checked out if there’s something wrong”.

Granted, this message isn’t bantz, hearing loss rarely is, but if you’ve got a little swooshing, buzzing or dimming of your hearing, it’s the most important message you’re going to get. 

Tom GK is performing Hearing Loss: The Musical at The Edinburgh Fringe everyday at 4.40pm, from August 2 to 26.