Newswise — Paul Stanley, the frontman and co-founder of KISS, received the Sound Partners Lifetime Achievement Award from the House Research Institute. He is hosting “Sound Rules! A Sound & Hearing Celebration”, a House Research Institute event to educate teens on hearing health issues, at the Director’s Guild of America on May 12. To RSVP for the event, http://soundrules.org/.
Paul recently sat down with the editor of House Calls Magazine.
Welcome to our hearing conservation program.
We are so pleased to have your participation!
To be honored by this organization, people like
Dr. House, and the incredible staff who are
focused on helping and improving everybody’s
quality of life, is terrific for me. Over the years
I’ve been impressed with the House Research
Institute, so to be a part of it is something I’m
very proud of. As someone who has a personal
difficulty with hearing, it’s very gratifying.
Paul, you mentioned you have a hearing problem.
Can you tell us about that?
I was born with a level 3 microtia, a deformity of the
cartilage of the outer ear, and in these cases, there
is no ear canal. There is no direct path to the inner
workings of the ear. I’m virtually deaf on that side,
except for bone conduction, because there is no access
for sound to enter.
So you’ve been using a bone conduction hearing aid.
Has it helped you?
I’ve had this implanted hearing aid for about two years
now. This is a device that is usually given to children
at an early age or to adults who have lost their hearing
due to a medical situation. For me, it’s an ongoing
adjustment because my brain has not processed sound
coming from that side for my entire life. In the
beginning it was incredibly taxing and confusing. If
you suddenly developed an eye in the back of your
head you would understand. That being said, it has
settled in quite a bit and I have to say, it enhances my
day-to-day activities. Although it is far from a cure-all
for me. It’s less a solution, and more an enhancement.
Has your hearing problem had any
impact on your career?
Not that I can tell! It’s sometimes hard
for people to understand that you don’t
miss what you’ve never had. When
blind people speak about seeing or
colors, it’s very personal to them. In
the same way, I may not hear music
the way other people hear it, but I have
nothing else to compare it to, or didn’t
for most of my life. I haven’t felt at a
loss for anything. I have no sense of
the direction of sound, yet I have no
trouble mixing a stereo album. I hear
the expanse or width of sound, but I
can’t necessarily tell you where it’s
If you were speaking to a young person
with hearing loss what advice would
Avail yourself of any technological
advances that are at your disposal.
Times have changed greatly since I
was a child. Medicine is always taking
giant leaps, and what was true 10 years
ago isn’t so today. If there is a way
to improve your situation, then by all
means, take the initiative to find out
about it. If not, many great people have
succeeded in enormous ways without
normal hearing, or any hearing for that
matter. This can be a small pothole in
the road, but that doesn’t mean it stops
you from going where you want to go.
What would you say to KISS fans and
all music listeners who like to listen at
high volume levels?
I think that the dangers, problems
and risks are insidious. High-volume
listening without some sort of protection
is so dangerous. I like to draw the
analogy that the first time you inhale
a cigarette, the body responds to it by
coughing. That’s your body telling you
that it doesn’t like it and doesn’t want
it. If you smoke enough cigarettes,
your body finally surrenders. Your ears
aren’t much different. Initially your
ears will ring. That is your body’s way
of telling you it’s being stressed and
there is a danger. If you continue to do
it, the ringing will diminish somewhat.
In some cases, there may be no ringing
and still, an immediate hearing loss.
Some people think that losing your
hearing means not being able to hear
or having difficulty hearing, but that’s
not always the case. What can happen
due to a loss of specific frequencies,
either quickly or over time, is that your
ability to distinguish what is being said
becomes the problem. Imagine being
able to hear people speak, but not being
able to understand what they’re saying.
Now I’m the first person to crank up
the amplifier, but I’m also the first
person to put in an ear plug or some
sort of valve for protection from the
frequencies and the volume that can
destroy hearing over time.
There is a YouTube video of you jamming
on the guitar with your son Evan, who
is 16. If he chooses to pursue a musical
career, will that be OK with you?
He certainly seems to have made
that decision. I applaud and take
pleasure in knowing that he has found
a passion. I think passion is not only
the key to success, but also a way
to rebound from failure. The key to
my happiness is continually finding
passion in my life. For Evan to have
that passion at this point is terrific. He
is also a B+/A student at one of the top
five high schools in the country, and
right now he is looking at colleges to
attend in a year or so. It all makes his
You were a student at the New York
High School of Music and Art, but you
were admitted for your art work rather
than your music. Could you tell us
From what I’ve been told, I was always
a fairly gifted artist from the time I was
quite young. I was told that art would
be a more realistic pursuit than music.
When I told people I wanted to be a rock
star, they tended to scoff. What’s always
interesting to me is that people often
think that what is out of the realm of
possibility for them, is also impossible
for you. Rule number one for success is,
make your own rules.
Your paintings are beautiful and
multilayered – yet at first you didn’t
intend for anyone to see them. Why
I saw painting as a personal way to
explore things going on inside me
at the time and as another means of
self expression. I’ve always tended
to define myself by the challenges
I take on and how I succeed or not
at them. When a friend suggested
that painting might be a good way to
help me through tumultuous times,
it somehow resonated with me. I
went out and bought canvases, paints,
brushes and palette knives, truly
having no understanding of how I
would use any of them. It really
turned into something cathartic and
a source of self-realization. It began
with wanting to establish for myself
a stream of consciousness that would
use color and texture instead of words.
Even in this rough economy your art
is doing very well and sold $3 million
last year. How has this happened?
All I can say is, no matter what the
economic situation, people tend to
need either solace, joy, or an escape.
That’s why films continue to do well.
Certainly KISS, as an entity, has
always thrived in times when other
bands were faltering. People crave
entertainment, escapism, some aspect
of beauty, or a reflection of something
more pure than what might be going
on at any given time.
You do so many things well – song
writing, musical performances,
theater, art – which do you enjoy
doing the most?
That’s a tough question. I’m fortunate
in that I’ve never allowed anyone to
tell me what my limitations or the
boundaries were. Because of that I’ve
got a very full plate, a very colorful
palette. I think at the core of it though,
without family, first and foremost, and
then friends, it’s all pretty hollow. That
old cliché of playing to an audience
of thousands and going home to an
empty house would be very sad. I
think the core of my success is rooted
in family and in those kinds of values.
You do have a lovely family… Evan,
Colin, Sarah, another child on the way
and your lovely wife, Erin.
I have a spectacular wife! I’m blessed
to have her and everything she has
given and supported me in. It’s
incredible to have someone that you
can count on who is always in your
corner. It makes it all so much easier
What are your upcoming plans with
At the moment, I’m preparing
production on the next album. As
with our last one, Sonic Boom, I’ll
be producing it, so right now I’m
writing the tunes and organizing the
band schedule for pre-production
rehearsals. We will be in the studio
in the next four weeks recording the
album. We’ve got six terrific songs for
it now, which is a great start. It gives
me a sense of direction and lets me see
what we have now and what we might
be lacking. The band will probably do
a few shows this summer. Other than
that, we will be on a break for a while.
We see our longevity as a marathon
and we’re still in it. At the same time,
I’m in the studio painting and getting
new pieces ready for shows.
About House Research Institute
The House Research Institute is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with hearing loss and related disorders through scientific research, patient care, and the sharing of knowledge. Institute scientists research the auditory system, at the level of function, as well as at the cellular, molecular and genetic levels. We also explore the neurological interactions between the auditory system and brain, and study ways to improve auditory implants, diagnostics, clinical treatments and intervention methods. We share our knowledge with the scientific and medical communities as well as the general public through our education and outreach programs. For more information about the House Research Institute, please call (800) 388-8612 or (213) 483-4431, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.houseresearchinstitute.org.