R&B Singer Tank on Making Music amid Losing His Hearing: 'I Do Have Vertigo Pretty Much Every Day'

R&B singer Tank announced back in May via an emotional Instagram post that he’s “going completely deaf” in his right ear and losing hearing in his left.

via: People

R&B singer Tank may have announced his retirement from music, but he’s not letting health complications get in the way of his final act. The “Maybe I Deserve” hitmaker revealed this news earlier in the year after explaining that he is going deaf in his right ear and losing his hearing in the other in an Instagram video; he was also diagnosed with an “extreme case of vertigo.”

Tank, 45, is bidding the industry adieu with his final album, titled R&B Money, due to arrive on Feb. 4. He tells PEOPLE Every Day host Janine Rubenstein that it wasn’t an easy process adjusting to making music with his health issues, but he was determined to pull through.

“It was tough at first because now it’s like all the information is flooding one ear,” he explains. “That one ear was just like, ‘Hold up, doc, I can’t handle all that,’ and so it took time to get that part of it.” But his hearing was only one component of his struggles; he adds that his vertigo also serves as a major challenge. “It’s either light or kind of medium, but I do have vertigo pretty much every day.”

Tank admits that he had to initially check in with his engineer to ensure things were still working. “I was like, ‘How do I sound, do I sound good? Am I good? Am I all right?’ ” he recalls. “He’s like, ‘You sound like yourself.'”

What fans hear on his new music, including his latest single “I Deserve,” are his first attempts at singing with one ear, but he’s been overjoyed going through this final victory lap despite his health complications. “I’m back on stage… My body has kind of made the adjustment to being able to hear on this one side,” he says. “I know how to operate with the vertigo, so I don’t run into those speakers and then fall off the stage. It’s going pretty good.”

Looking back at how it all started, Tank says he knew something was up after a trip to the gym, when he lost his balance and almost fell on his way out. “I just got completely dizzy … my ear had been clogged, my right ear, and then it just started ringing and everything just sounded like a distorted telephone was coming through that ear,” he thinks back. “And then this ear, my left ear just felt clogged.”

The singer was working on a movie set at the time and it eventually got to a point where he was dizzy beyond control and had to go to a doctor. Multiple tests were run, and eventually, it was discovered that he was experiencing sudden sensorineural hearing loss as a result of tinnitus.

“They don’t know how it happens, they don’t know why it happens, it just happens,” he explains. “They have means to try and treat it that aren’t a hundred percent effective, then they have procedures that you can do to restore your hearing a different way. But once you take those medical procedures, the idea of you hearing naturally is kind of out of the window.”

Tank is going to wait before he makes any major decisions about what treatment feels right for him. “Nerves take time to heal and it’s ultimately nerve damage,” he says of the current available treatments. “I’m going to give it some time before I start making any harsh decisions, like cochlear implants and stuff like that.”

The toughest part of the entire ordeal has been the medicine, which he says took “all the fight out of me. Once I was able to get off the medicine and stop getting steroid injections into my eardrum and all of that craziness, man, I felt a lot better.”

“I was able to move on with, ‘Hey, this is my reality. This is what it is,’ you know what I’m saying? And I’m able to fight from here,” he adds, noting that he wouldn’t be able to do it without the support of both his fans and people around the world who have reached out about their similar experiences.

“I mean, the support has been a 1,000 percent, man,” he gushes. “To be able to dial into so many people who are actually going through the same thing I’m going through and just didn’t know how to have the conversation. And so, I brought the conversation to the main stage. I was like, ‘Man, let’s talk about it. Let’s get this out in the open so that we can share, and everybody can lean on each other.’ ”

He and his wife Zena Foster have also been able to find ways to laugh amid this difficult situation, regularly joking about his ability to hear the things he wants to hear.

“My wife is like, ‘See, this gives you another excuse to not hear what I’m asking you to do,’ ” he laughs. “Every time she asked me to do something I’m like, ‘Huh, what did you say? I didn’t know you asked me to do that. I’m sorry.’ We have fun with it, man, and just keep it light.”

The father of five has also figured out how to balance fatherhood with his new reality. “My kids don’t know the difference,” he says. “In the beginning they did because they couldn’t talk loud because it would hurt my ears, but now they’re back to screaming and carrying on all over the place. We’re pretty much back to normal.”

It’s been 20 years since the release of his first album, Force of Nature, and as he gears up for his final chapter as a singer, he’s just happy to have made it this far. “How many artists, 20 years later, are still in the conversation, are still at the top of the charts?” he asks. “I’m always surprised. I’m like, ‘They like it? They like it?’ All of that within itself, man, is just one big cool highlight that I’m just still able to be part of this R&B movement.”

Tank definitely deserves his flowers, for what he has contributed to the culture with his music.

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