Musician Joe Anastasi in his Carle Place home. 

Musician Joe Anastasi in his Carle Place home.  Credit: Jeff Bachner

It’s late at night and Joe Anastasi has settled down in his Carle Place living room to play with bandmate Allen Rolleri. As his cat nestles in his guitar case, the two perform a song they’ve played countless times, with Rolleri singing while Anastasi strums his guitar and croons softly.

To a listener, the tune is beautiful. But for Anastasi, it’s a largely silent song.

At 52, the lifelong musician has experienced profound hearing loss, first in his left ear in January and then in his right in May. Though he has since recovered 10% of his hearing in his left ear, he is now faced with not only learning how to navigate the world after profound hearing loss, but also the possibility that he may never play music in public again.

“I was performing from January to May with one functional ear,” Anastasi said. But now, he said, “Performing has been put on the shelf until I work this out.”

A musician in two bands, Anastasi said he relies on his memory and physical cues to play the guitar, since he can’t hear the musical notes very well.

“To make sure we’re on the same page, he can watch my foot or my hand,” said Rolleri, 49, of Mineola.

And when he sings, Anastasi said, he can still feel the familiar vibrations in his throat — “like walking around with your eyes closed.”

Anastasi recently learned to communicate via a voice recognition app on his phone. His son Dillon, 13, who just graduated eighth grade, has adapted quickly to the change.

“God bless him,” Anastasi said. “He’s taken naturally to speaking into his phone and it popping up as a text or talking into an app.”

His wife, Penny, reassures him after they finish playing.

“They sound great,” she said, as Anastasi watched her words appear on his phone. “Just like they did when I used to watch them play at [the Manhattan nightclub] Don Hill’s.”

Joe Anastasi, center, with his wife, Penny, and son, Dillon.

Joe Anastasi, center, with his wife, Penny, and son, Dillon. Credit: Jeff Bachner

JOINING KISS NATION

Music has been part of Anastasi’s life almost since he was born on Jan. 26, 1972, in Jackson Heights, Queens. His mother played Queen around the house and, he recalled, “I’d run around the basement with this toy guitar, listening to Queen.”

At age 10, he had his first guitar lesson. By the time he was in high school at St. Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows, he had formed a band called Dusted Trust.

“It was rock, and it was flashy, and it was good,” Rolleri said of the band he admired and joined at age 17. “The day Joe asked me to be in the band, he for some reason grabbed me and flipped me upside down. To me, it was the greatest thing. It was like being asked to join The Beatles.”

Anastasi graduated from high school in 1990 and from Queens College, where he majored in art, in 1998.

I was trying to become a rock star.

Joe Anastasi, musician 

At the same time, he was seriously pursuing a career in music. “I was trying to become a rock star,” said Anastasi, who has cropped hair dyed blond and a lightning bolt tattoo on one arm.

On Aug. 28, 2008, he and Penny married, with Rolleri as best man. Anastasi sang “When You Dream,” an original song the bandmates submitted to “American Idol.”

“Penny wrote all the lyrics. It was a poem she was writing,” he recalled. “I remember reading it and thinking, ‘This is great.’ ”

The couple moved to Fresh Meadows and started a family. In 2015, they moved to Carle Place.

A photo retoucher at costume designer and manufacturer Rubie’s II in Westbury, Anastasi is also co-founder of the band Face First, which performs original songs and covers around Long Island. Seven years ago, he and Rolleri started performing in the national touring Kiss tribute band, Kiss Nation, where Anastasi plays bassist and co-lead singer Gene Simmons.

“He brings an incredible amount of talent as a musician and singer,” said Billy May, of Brooklyn, who portrays Kiss band member Paul Stanley. “He makes any project he’s part of better.”  

Joe Anastasi with bandmate Allen Rolleri.

Joe Anastasi with bandmate Allen Rolleri. Credit: Jeff Bachner

EARS READY TO ‘POP’

Jan. 3, 2024, started as a typical day for Anastasi. He did his morning workout, hanging from a pullup bar and doing a handstand against the bedroom wall.

“I came down from the handstand and my head felt like it was in an airplane before your ears pop,” he said. “I thought I just came down from a handstand too quickly.”

He said he played music on his phone in the shower, where he noticed the sound in his left ear started getting lower. The problem persisted as he dropped Dillon off at school and drove to work. There, he turned to Google for answers.

“If you’re experiencing sudden hearing loss, do not ignore it,” he remembers reading. “I read you have basically two weeks to get treatment, if you’re going to get some hearing back.”

He said he went to CityMD in Carle Place and to an ENT who prescribed steroids to fight possible infection, but nothing worked.

Weeks later, with one good ear, he put on his platform shoes and ear plugs for a scheduled Kiss Nation gig.

“I could hear myself if I had to make a correction,” he said. “It was low, but I could hear it.”

Said Lisa Gandia, booking agent and publicist for Anastasi, Face First, and Kiss Nation, “He went on stage and rocked out. He’s a fighter. He’s not a quitter.”

Anastasi said he got an in-ear monitor, which filtered out background sound. “It worked great,” he said. “I wasn’t hearing in stereo, but I was able to perform.”

But then on May 23, Anastasi said he woke dizzy and nauseous, throwing up in the bathroom before realizing he couldn’t hear the toilet flush. “Now the panic set in,” he recounted.

He texted his wife, already at work as an operating room administrator at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, who contacted bandmates on Long Island. “Joe could barely walk,” Rolleri said. “He’s falling on the ground, dizzy, throwing up.”

His wife met him at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, where he was tested and admitted as his hearing faded in and out. “We didn’t know if his right ear was going to go,” she recalled, noting Anastasi’s hearing vanished at 9 p.m.

“It went away and it never came back,” he said.  

Joe Anastasi performing as Gene Simmons in the Kiss tribute...

Joe Anastasi performing as Gene Simmons in the Kiss tribute band, Kiss Nation. Credit: Lisa Gandia

SENSORINEURAL HEARING LOSS

Anastasi suffers from what’s colloquially called “sudden deafness,” or profound sensorineural hearing loss. “It can happen anytime,” said Dr. Andrea Vambutas, Northwell Health’s senior vice president and executive director of head and neck services. “There aren’t other symptoms associated with it. It’s not like you know it’s going to happen. It’s boom.”

One in 4,000 people in the United States suffer from it, she said. Causes include viral infections; Ménière’s disease, which affects the inner ear; autoimmune disorders; and loss of blood supply to the ear.

Vambutas said loud noise can cause hearing loss that is usually temporary, though in rare cases can be permanent. But Anastasi said doctors told him that, due to the sudden nature of the loss and the impact to both ears, it is unlikely to have been caused by loud music.

Anastasi said he has undergone countless tests and taken steroids, which helped him recover 10% hearing in his left ear. He still can’t discern words or hear musical notes.

“It sounds like I’m underwater,” Anastasi said. “I can actually hear my voice, thank God.”

Penny Anastasi said they’re searching for solutions. “We’re still running to appointments,” she said. “It’s like we’re in the middle of a tornado.”  

Anastasi uses an app on his phone to communicate.

Anastasi uses an app on his phone to communicate. Credit: Jeff Bachner

EXPLORING SOLUTIONS

Anastasi said he misses conversation, music and performing, which helped financially support his family and has long been part of his life.

“Performing is cathartic,” Anastasi said. “When something breaks that armor, you feel vulnerable.”

He silently rehearses songs, so he’s ready if he is able to play publicly again. “I pick up the electric [guitar], not plugged in, [and] practice scales, finger exercises,” he said. “On the acoustic, I can sort of go through songs.”

He said he’s starting a 20-session hyperbaric oxygen therapy regimen at his doctor’s recommendation and beginning a new round of oral steroids. Though not specifically prescribed by his doctor, he said he is testing a celiac diet, considering chiropractic therapy and acupuncture and exploring possible autoimmune deficiencies, which run in his family, he said.

Anastasi said his doctor has recommended he get a cochlear implant, an electrode wire placed in the cochlea in the inner ear that converts sound to digital signals that give the perception of sound.

Penny Anastasi said that even in the best case scenario, he’d have to adapt. “It’s like learning from scratch again, how to hear,” she said.

But her husband sees the implant as his biggest hope to improve his hearing for music and daily life.

“With the cochlear implant, I’ve read stories that range from nightmare to miracle,” he said. But given his near-complete loss of hearing, he said, “The reality is, I have to get one. I don’t think hearing aids are going to help me.”

Vambutas said cochlear implants generally cost about $40,000 and are covered by insurance. According to the Mayo Clinic, implants are surgically installed by making an incision behind the ear and then a small hole in the part of the skull bone known as the mastoid, where the device will be placed. An electrode is then guided into the cochlea.

May, his Kiss bandmate, wants his friend to be well, happy and, ideally, back in the band.

“We all hope things will eventually return to normal or Joe will be able to get to a place where he’s comfortable performing on stage again,” May said. “But what Joe is going through is bigger than any band. What I really hope for is for Joe to just be happy under any circumstances.”

Anastasi hasn’t given up trying to play or hear. He said he can still remember music, as his muscles play songs that, for now, his ears cannot hear.

“Why do I play music? Why do I brush my teeth? It’s part of who I am,” he said. “That’s what makes it very difficult to possibly face the reality that I won’t be able to do it anymore. It’s such a huge part of my identity.”

Suffolk fire commissioner removed ... Cedar Beach sewage system ... Dino-mite Vintage Credit: Newsday

Updated 44 minutes ago Trump's big day at RNC ... New pressure on Biden ... LI teacher loses certificate ... What's up on Long Island

Suffolk fire commissioner removed ... Cedar Beach sewage system ... Dino-mite Vintage Credit: Newsday

Updated 44 minutes ago Trump's big day at RNC ... New pressure on Biden ... LI teacher loses certificate ... What's up on Long Island

Latest Videos

ONE-DAY SALE26¢ for 5 6 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME