[artist id="30064"]Black Eyed Peas[/artist] frontman [artist id="1521450"]will.i.am[/artist] is the modern version of an old-school rock star: His group sells millions of albums, is prepping a stadium tour and, as such guitar-slinging icons as The Who have in the past, is about to rock halftime at the Super Bowl in February.
According to an interview with the British tabloid The Sun, there's another thing Will has in common with The Who: like that group's legendary guitarist Pete Townshend, will.i.am says he suffers from the painful condition tinnitus. The malady, which is common among musicians who've been exposed to loud music for prolonged periods, includes such symptoms as a constant ringing or buzzing in the ears.
"I can't be still. Work calms me down," Will, 35, says of the maddening noise in his ears, a malady that is especially cruel to a producer whose ability to mix and blend sounds is crucial to his career.
"I can't be quiet, as that's when I notice the ringing in my ears," he describes. "There's always a beep there every day, all day. Like now. I don't know exactly how long I've had this, but it's gradually got worse."
And while the ailment has slowed down Townshend and forced the famously aggressive guitarist to sometimes resort to strumming an acoustic during Who shows, Will says he's taken the diagnosis as a spur to make even more music.
"I don't know what silence sounds like anymore. Music is the only thing which eases my pain," he explains.
As proof of the severity of the illness, the paper describes the producer/rapper regularly working his finger into his ear and shaking his head during the interview to try to silence the noise in his head. The content of the interview wasn't confirmed to MTV News by a spokesperson for the group by press time.
With a new BEP release, The Beginning, to promote and a world tour slated for 2011 — not to mention production duties on the next U2 album — Will has plenty of booming distractions to keep him busy over the next year.
And he can take solace in the fact that he's certainly not alone in suffering. Among the other musicians who've shown symptoms of tinnitus over the years: film-score composer Danny Elfman; rock legends Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Paul Simon and Neil Young; electronic musician Moby; U2 singer Bono and Ludwig van Beethoven.
Are you surprised by will.i.am's revelation that he has tinnitus? Tell us in the comments below.