Since the mid-2000s, a huge topic among fans of J-Pop Empress Ayumi Hamasaki has been about the gradually worsening condition of her hearing. From feelings of sorrow, to worry, to being the butt of a joke from haters, as a singer, it has no doubt affected her vocal technique.
Today, the Ayu took to her Team Ayu blog to talk about her current health condition and revealed that her right ear is beginning to weaken after years of compensating for her fully deaf left ear.
After talking about her knee injury recovery, Hamasaki writes:
Just before this year’s tour began I received a second blow – my hearing started to deteriorate further. My semicircular canals had blown, and I was experiencing crippling dizziness. I wasn’t able to walk in a straight line, and was often reduced to vomiting in the restroom at the rehearsal studio. I tried to put a brace face on things, but was told after various hearing tests that my right ear (which had been working overtime to compensate for my deaf left ear) was weakening fast. I don’t have a clear memory of my journey home after that. I just remember wondering how I, as a singer, would cope with two useless ears. Other than that, I was in darkness.
None of this is surprising considering how her left ear got in such awful condition.
During her concert tour 2000 Act 1, Ayu caught a cold accompanied by an ear infection. She was warned by her doctor that she needed to ease up her exposure to loud noises so her ear infection could heal. However, she only spent a few days in the hospital to recover to get back to touring and surrounding herself with loud noises. Being the hard-working and motivated business woman she is, at the top of her game and fame and devoted to her art and the coins, she did not cancel or postpone any tour dates until Act 2.
During performance rehearsals for her DOME TOUR 2001, it was believed that Ayu began suffering tinnitus, a ringing in the ear that is caused by constant exposure to sound.
Despite the numerous warnings for years that she should avoid loud noises and ease up on her immense touring schedule, Ayu continued at full speed. For years to come, she continued her schedule of at least one tour per year, a New Year’s countdown concert event and appearances at a-nation each year.
In 2007, just before the Countdown Live concert celebrating the start of the new year and her 10th anniversary as a singer, Ayu’s ear began bothering her again. She insisted her new ear monitor was bothering her, but expressed privately that she was concerned about the health of her ear.
In late 2008, the condition was deemed irreversible by her doctor. Ayu went to a doctor and was given the unfortunate news that her ear had gone completely deaf, and there was no treatment. She posted on her TeamAyu blog a few days later to notify her fans, promising to continue being a singer regardless and vowed to go ahead with an upcoming tour of Asia.
“Nevertheless, I would like to continue as a singer. That’s why I would like to continue singing until I reach the limit with my remaining right ear,” she wrote at the time on her members-only fan site. “I won’t stop. I won’t make excuses. As a professional, I would like to deliver the best performance for everyone.“
Feeling lost with the possibility of not being able to do what she loves, a message of encouragement from a friend reminded her who she was. In today’s post, Hamasaki admitted that she should “probably stop performing,” but that isn’t something she is prepared to consider:
The stage is where I belong. It’s the only place I really, truly exist. I don’t know anything else. There’s no point in worrying about what lies ahead. I will keep listening, even if I can’t hear. I will keep moving, evening if I can’t move. I’m not looking for sympathy or pity. I will hold my head high and keep going forward until my last breath.
The reality of the situation brings on mixed feelings: Ayumi Hamasaki’s outlook and dedication to what she loves doing is both commendable and inspirational, but at the same time, her determination to actively work against her health is entirely distressing.
Selling over 50 million records throughout her career, making her best-selling Japanese solo artist of all time, she has definitely changed the landscape of the music scene in Japan but it’s incredibly disheartening to think about her career’s impending expiration date.