Longtime AC/DC singer Brian Johnson has issued a statement explaining his recent battle with hearing loss and clarifying the circumstances behind his inability to complete the legendary Australian group’s current world tour.

AC/DC postponed the last ten dates of its recent North American tour after doctors told Johnson he faced “total hearing loss.” At the time, the group promised they would make up the shows, “likely with a guest vocalist.”

After all the rumors, speculation and sightings, it was confirmed last Saturday that GUNS N’ ROSES frontman Axl Rose will be the singer in AC/DC for European dates in May and June.

The band released a statement that said in part: “AC/DC band members would like to thank Brian Johnson for his contributions and dedication to the band throughout the years. We wish him all the best with his hearing issues and future ventures.

“As much as we want this tour to end as it started, we understand, respect and support Brian‘s decision to stop touring and save his hearing. We are dedicated to fulfilling the remainder of our touring commitments to everyone that has supported us over the years, and are fortunate that Axl Ros has kindly offered his support to help us fulfill this commitment.”

In his statement, Johnson stopped short of saying that he was out of the group permanently and expressed hope that continued medical treatment will allow his hearing to improve enough for him to return to performing live. He explained: “I cannot imagine going forward without being part of [AC/DC], but for now I have no choice.”

Johnson‘s statement in full:

“As many AC/DC fans know, the remaining shows for the 2016 AC/DC ‘Rock Or Bust’ world tour, including 10 postponed U.S. shows, are being rescheduled with a guest singer. I want personally to explain the reason because I don’t believe the earlier press releases sufficiently set out what I wanted to say to our fans or the way in which I thought it should be presented.

“On March 7th, after a series of examinations by leading physicians in the field of hearing loss, I was advised that if I continue to perform at large venues, I risked total deafness. While I was horrified at the reality of the news that day, I had for a time become aware that my partial hearing loss was beginning to interfere with my performance on stage. I was having difficulty hearing the guitars on stage and because I was not able to hear the other musicians clearly, I feared the quality of my performance could be compromised. In all honesty, this was something I could not in good conscience allow. Our fans deserve my performance to be at the highest level, and if for any reason I can’t deliver that level of performance, I will not disappoint our fans or embarrass the other members of AC/DC. I am not a quitter and I like to finish what I start. Nevertheless, the doctors made it clear to me and my bandmates that I had no choice but to stop performing on stage for the remaining shows and possibly beyond. That was the darkest day of my professional life.

“Since that day, I have had several consultations with my doctors and it appears that, for the near future, I will be unable to perform on stage at arena- and stadium-size venues where the sound levels are beyond my current tolerance, without the risk of substantial hearing loss and possibly total deafness. Until that time, I tried as best as I could to continue despite the pain and hearing loss but it all became too much to bear and too much to risk.

“I am personally crushed by this development more than anyone could ever imagine. The emotional experience I feel now is worse than anything I have ever in my life felt before. Being part of AC/DC, making records and performing for the millions of devoted fans this past 36 years has been my life’s work. I cannot imagine going forward without being part of that, but for now I have no choice. The one thing for certain is that I will always be with AC/DC at every show in spirit, if not in person. Most importantly, I feel terrible having to disappoint the fans who bought tickets for the canceled shows and who have steadfastly supported me and AC/DC these many years.

“Words cannot express my deep gratitude and heartfelt thanks not just for the recent outpouring to me personally of kind words and good wishes, but also for the years of loyal support of AC/DC. My thanks also go to Angus and Cliff for their support.

“Finally, I wish to assure our fans that I am not retiring. My doctors have told me that I can continue to record in studios and I intend to do that. For the moment, my entire focus is to continue medical treatment to improve my hearing. I am hoping that in time my hearing will improve and allow me to return to live concert performances. While the outcome is uncertain, my attitude is optimistic. Only time will tell.

“Once again, my sincere best wishes and thanks to everyone for their support and understanding.

“Love, Brian

Sources close to AC/DC told The Sydney Morning Herald say the choice of Rose for the upcoming tour was “financially motivated.”

AC/DC fan site AC/DC Italia announced that it was closing in protest of the band’s treatment of Johnson. The site changed its cover photo to read “AC/DC 1973-2016” and said it was shutting down after 13 years online to “take a firm stand against Angus [Young] and co.”

Jesse Fink, the AC/DC biographer who wrote “The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC”, called the Rose recruitment “the worst decision AC/DC has ever made. Fans are pretty disgusted,” Fink said.

AC/DC is all about the money now,” Fink said. “What fans wanted to see was the band stop, let Brian get better and maybe do one last show. You’d think someone who’s been in the band for 36 years would certainly be allowed to leave on his own terms.

AC/DC would have been far better off to just call an end to it all and preserve the amazing mystique they have. They had gone for decades saying, ‘We’re a no-bullshit band. We don’t stand for the glitz and the excess of the rock industry. We’re about the music not about the money.’ Yet they’ve gone and done a complete 360. Now they’re the hard rock equivalent of KISS.”