I was never that super cool dude with the booming car stereo, where the sub-woofers significantly caused diminished trunk space, or the super cool kid on the bus with the loud iPod anyone can hear from more than 5 feet away; Best yet, where I’m from in Jamaica, the dude in front of the speaker box at the session (alternative word for party) acting like the ridiculously loud volume is not bothering him. Instead, I am the guy that complains about volume levels in the rehearsal room, at the sound check, and during the gig. I’m the guy that wears ear plugs only on rare occasions, but could never sing with them because of this and that, so just never used them much. That’s unfortunate, because now I’m the guy with TINNITUS.
1. a sensation of noise (as a ringing or roaring) that is caused by a bodily condition (as a disturbance of the auditory nerve or wax in the ear) and typically is of the subjective form which can only be heard by the one affected.
2. Tinnitus is hearing ringing, buzzing, or other sounds without an external cause. Patients may experience tinnitus in one or both ears or in the head.
Like most afflictions to the body, most are embarrassed to speak about them. I’m more disappointed than I am embarrassed, but figure the least I can do is help others protect themselves from developing this symptom, and what to do if it does develop. Most importantly I think it is important to know that there are others out there struggling with this problem.
Based on my introduction, you can tell I never really abused my ears growing up, but in the past 5 years I have attended music school for 4, then lived in New York as a full-time performer for the other, not to mention all the performing I did before that. I guess that explains it all, but that shouldn’t be the case for you, because there are ways to protect yourself, and not become a statistic like I did.
Let’s say I was exposed to many loud practice rooms, concert venues, college parties, general parties and live performances, and now it has caught up with me. As a singer it has always been hard to sing with ear plugs, so I never did, hoping my invincible ears could handle the damage that these sound waves were clearly doing. Earplugs affected my intonation and the natural sound of the band was distorted, so I always had difficulty performing with them.
Maybe 5 days into having ringing of the ears I thought it rather odd that it hadn’t gone away like it usually does after about 2 days or so. I tweeted about it. I didn’t really pay much attention to it. 2 weeks in, the ringing was still there and hadn’t changed in intensity. I used the tweet to determine how long it had been. Now over 3 weeks in, I don’t think it’s going anywhere. Now I wonder why I hadn’t gotten the custom musician earplugs back in music school. The approximately US$150 for a pair of earplugs shouldn’t have been such a big deal, especially since it was insurance for my music career. My natural 1st response was to look for someone to blame, for having their amplifier too loud, or a sound engineer for cranking the volume too much, but at the end of the day I only had myself to blame for being careless, and less vigilant about ear protection.
Thankfully my hearing is normal, but I have persistent ringing, which thankfully doesn’t affect my sleep or my singing ability, but sometimes drives me insane in a quiet room. I am now hyper-sensitive to loud noises (hyperacusis), which is really not cool, because it is only at this point you realize how many things are really loud in our environment - Sirens, car horns, subway trains (these are actually the worse), just laughter sometimes close to the ear. All this now so significant, when only a few weeks ago everything was peachy. I am clearly adjusting to my new possibly permanent friend tinnitus, and this is one friend I probably won’t introduce to you outside of this discourse.
My advice is to be careful about protecting your ears, whether you are a musician, work in a noisy environment, frequent clubber, or just an everyday person walking the street. I know I will never again be careless, and prevent any more damage from being done.
I will continue to tell you about this journey in my “Arrrrrgh My Ears are Ringing” post series. Next I will talk about what steps to take to get help, and what products are out there to offer you some good protection.
In the meanwhile, here is some reading about tinnitus I found helpful: http://www.vater.com/education/healthbeat/Hearing/index.cfm
“Through adversity stay positive, as challenge through adversity is the only thing that will strengthen us in the school of life” - M.E.
I am Mario Evon, Jamaican Reggae-Soul Singer/Songwriter. Graduate of Berklee College of Music in Music Business/Management and Songwriter. Music Business Consultant, Stage coach and lover of life.