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Pushing 30, rivals circling, and now deaf in one ear: it's tough at the top for Ayu

Pop diva Ayumi Hamasaki confirmed earlier this month what her nastier critics have been saying about her tone for years -- she's deaf, at least in her left ear. And Sunday Mainichi (1/27) says the 29-year-old superstar's ailment isn't being helped by her increasing isolation in the music world.

Hamasaki used a special member's only blog she writes to reveal she'd lost her hearing.

"Actually, last year I had a hearing test that revealed my left ear doesn't work at all, and the doctor said there's no operation that can fix it," Sunday Mainichi quotes the songstress writing to her fans.

Hamasaki has actually known for years that her hearing was going bung, and has twice postponed national tours because of it.

Nonetheless, now her secret is out in the open, Hamasaki is determined to forge ahead with her plans to tour the country from April, but the disclosure of her deafness has also opened another can of worms for her.

"I read everything she wrote on her blog and it seems she kept the news all to herself, not telling her relatives or staff," entertainment beat journalist Yuji Watanabe says. "I think rather than the deafness itself, the bigger problem (for Hamasaki) is why she kept such a problem held so tightly in her heart."

Hamasaki has long known it's lonely at the top. She has almost single-handedly kept her record company Avex at the apex of the Japanese music world, but realized as the company's queen bee she can't afford to have a public perception of weakness. She only told two people of her hearing problems -- Tomoya Nagase, the boy band Tokio member and her longtime ex-boyfriend, and Mika Noguchi, the president of panty manufacturer Peach John.

Sunday Mainichi 01/27
Sunday Mainichi 01/27

Hamasaki's career is also not as sturdy as it once was. During her 10 years on the scene, her every album has come out at No. 1 on the charts in the week that it was released. But "Guilty," her latest offering that came out on New Year's Day, only reached No. 2, giving greater credence to suggestions that younger, flashier singers such as Kumi Koda and others of her ilk are about to usurp Hamasaki's title.

As for Hamasaki's actual condition, otological expert Tetsuro Ogata suspects she may have Meniere's disease.

"She's got either sudden deafness or Meniere's disease. Her hearing has become progressively worse over a number of examinations, so I think it's probably more likely to be Meniere's," Ogata tells Sunday Mainichi, noting that sudden deafness arises out of the blue and can be caused by such things as viruses or stress, while the condition also believed to have affected Beethoven starts with hearing difficulties and dizziness before progressing to hearing loss. (By Ryann Connell)

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(Mainichi Japan) January 18, 2008


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