William Shatner has played a starship captain, a blowhard attorney, and the man who can get you a good deal on a hotel room over the last half-century. During his long career on Star Trek, William Shatner faced alien threats, but he has also faced a real-life threat, tinnitus, for years. But do you know how he got tinnitus?
Since the filming of the original series Star Trek episode “Arena,” William Shatner has suffered from tinnitus. He unintentionally stood too close to a special effects explosion, resulting in permanent severe ringing in his ears.
Shatner and the Tormenting Tinnitus
Shatner developed tinnitus in the 1960s after standing too close to a special effects explosion while filming an episode of the legendary Star Trek television series.
I was standing too close to a special effects explosion and it resulted in tinnitus. There were days when I didn’t know whether I would survive. I was so tormented by the screeching in my head. The help they gave me literally saved my life.William Shatner, Actor Best Known for His Role as Captain James T. Kirk
An estimated 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus in one or both ears, with 16 million experiencing symptoms severe enough to require treatment from a doctor or hearing specialist.
As many as 2 million people are debilitated by the constant ringing, hissing, chirping, clicking, whooshing, or screeching. According to Jennifer Born, an ATA spokeswoman in Portland, Oregon, their lives is essentially ruined.
Billy Martin, clinic director at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, said he was aware of eight suicides among the 9,000 patients who visited the tinnitus clinic. Along with their tinnitus, most patients present with insomnia, anxiety, and depression. (Source: Interview Area)
How Did William Shatner Handle His Situation
Shatner’s treatment entailed wearing a small electronic device that produced a low-level, broadband sound, white noise that assisted his brain in putting the tinnitus in the background.
I wore the device for 24 hours a day for several months,” said Shatner. “Now, I don’t hear the tinnitus 95 percent of the time.William Shatner, Actor Best Known for His Role as Captain James T. Kirk
William Shatner considered suicide once because his hearing problems were driving him insane. The actor has revealed that the constant hiss of tinnitus, caused by an explosion on the set of Star Trek, used to keep him awake at night, and he began to fear he’d never be able to get rid of the noise.
It was like listening to the hiss of a TV that’s not tuned to a channel. I thought I’d go deaf or nuts. I thought of killing myself.William Shatner, Actor Best Known for His Role as Captain James T. Kirk
Tinnitus refraining therapy eventually helped Shatner retrain his brain to ignore the buzzing.
Now the condition doesn’t affect me.William Shatner, Actor Best Known for His Role as Captain James T. Kirk
Tinnitus is not limited to Shatner; The Who’s Pete Townshend, Barbra Streisand, and fellow Star Trek veteran Leonard Nimoy have all battled the hearing condition. (Source: Interview Area)
Image from Popular Mechanics