In 2015, one of my worst nightmares became a reality when my ears started ringing. And I instantly wished for a volume button to turn it off. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
As a professional working in the music industry, hearing damage, or worse, hearing loss, causes a lot of anxiety, which is all too familiar to some of my clients, DJs and producers in electronic music. Famous artists like Moby, Will.i.am and Carl Craig have spoken out about the effects of having tinnitus, all.day.every.day.
Tinnitus can affect a person’s mental health and general well-being in serious ways. And according to the American Tinnitus Association, people with severe forms of tinnitus also suffer from depression, anxiety or other disorders. In some cases, these associated conditions can lead to suicidal ideation, according to the Hearing Health Foundation.
For artists, hearing damage is an occupational hazard. There’s no cure for it. All you can do is learn to manage your symptoms.
TINNITUS, WHAT IS IT?
The Tinnitus Clinic describes it as follows: “Tinnitus is a conscious awareness of a sound in the ears or head that is not due to external noise. Every individual has their own very personal tinnitus tone. It can be a high or low-frequency sound and its volume can vary over time.”
The main symptom of tinnitus is ringing in your ears. Other noises also include buzzing, clicking, thumping (like your own heartbeat) or rushing. Symptoms vary from person to person, and certain treatments that work on one person, might not work on another at all.
DEAFENING SILENCE: THUMPING HEARTBEATS AND BUZZING BEES
Tinnitus is an occupational hazard when you work in the music industry. My problems started due to exposure to very loud music at a party. You must know that extended and repeated exposure to 85 decibels – the level of a vacuum cleaner, can already cause damage. Now, the levels at parties I frequent are much higher than that. Even though there are laws as to what the maximum allowed levels are, vary from country to country, but it’s safe to say those levels will all be higher than your vacuum cleaner.
When you are active in the dance music industry, you spend a lot of time listening to loud music – music producers in their studio, DJs at parties, the party go-ers and me while producing radio shows live in a studio, are just a few examples of activities that are increasing the risk to getting that ring. Going out late and not getting much sleep, eating at irregular times, substance abuse, these unhealthy lifestyle choices can all contribute to ringing in your ears, directly or indirectly.
Most people know tinnitus as ringing or high-pitched tones, one or as in my case, several tones.
That’s not all. I also hear thumping heartbeats and gushing sounds in my ears while I’m sleeping. So, it wakes me up sometimes.
Buzzing, like a bee or fly passing through, so loudly, that it actually startles me, has also woken me up numerous times. After which, you can imagine, I’m having trouble falling asleep due to the buzzing.
The buzzing caused insomnia for about one or two months a couple of years ago. I experienced so many sleepless nights that I was becoming truly desperate. I was so tired, and so sick of all that noise, that I didn’t know what to do anymore. I couldn’t stand walking in my street because of all the cars passing by and the muttering of people. But when I was alone, I had to have the TV on to block out the ringing in my ears. So it was never really quiet and I was craving silence. As it turned out, trying to block it out with other sounds, worked counter-productive. Silence became deafening. The hard answer in the majority of cases would be, no.
THERE’S NO CURE, SO YOU HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO COPE: LIVING WITH TINNITUS AS A PRODUCER
Damage to hearing and hearing loss are occupational hazards for producers. They spend a lot of time listening to music at a high volume and for long, consecutive periods of time. One of the worst nightmares of a music producer is definitely tinnitus and the fact it may affect their hearing during the music making process.
Producers play sets at places that have loud sound systems, they make music in their (home) studio and their spare time is filled with listening to new music and checking out other artists and DJs at loud venues. For some, listening to and producing music becomes a chore and takes the pleasure out of it. In some cases, it interrupts work altogether. I had a client who had trouble hearing me during one of our coaching sessions because he was so distracted by the ringing in his ears.
So what can you do to stop the extreme ringing, how can you cope with moments of heightened sensitivity to everyday sounds and how can you continue to produce and listen to music without going completely bonkers?
YOU HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO COPE WITH THE SYMPTOMS: A FEW TIPS FOR TINNITUS RELIEF
Once my audiologist confirmed I had tinnitus and I realised this ringing in my ears was never going to go away, I started looking for the most effective treatment of my tinnitus symptoms. Below is a list of things that have worked for me. Some better than others, but I thought I’d include it all so that you can explore different option on how to cope with the ringing in your ears.
DAILY GROUNDING MEDITATION
By being present, and maintaining my energy, I don’t feel like I can lift off into a whirlwind of stress and worry at any given moment. As a result, I don’t easily get overwhelmed, or I just don’t get overwhelmed at all. In other words, stress is reduced, and so is the ringing in my ears. It really brings relief.
GET ENOUGH AND REGULAR SLEEP
I’m taking magnesium supplements. I was advised by my GP that this helps maintain normal nerve function, in this case, including the nerves that are involved in hearing.
I can’t say it has a direct, proven beneficial effect on symptom relief, but since I’m prone to a magnesium deficiency in general, it doesn’t harm me to take it.
WHITE NOISE, PINK NOISE, BROWN NOISE
According to TinnitusNotch “repeated listening to a full spectrum of sound, minus the frequency of the ringing in the subject’s ears can greatly reduce the severity of tinnitus over time.”
I found this type of sound masking helpful until I turn it off. Then my ringing comes back with a vengeance, louder and higher for a little while. So, I’m not able to sit down and meditate and I need quick relief.
Knowing what triggers tinnitus in the first place, can help with harm reduction.
Long-term exposure to loud noises: Wear earplugs when you go out or when you’re exposed to loud noise. Keep your distance from speakers at parties and festivals, in clubs. Avoid loud noises as much as possible to reduce the risk of worsening the ringing in your ears.
Limit or eliminate stimulants like coffee and nicotine.
* Tackle sources of stress: If you get stressed easily, detect the sources of your stress so that you know what to tackle.
PREVENTION AND HARM REDUCTION: GET CUSTOM EARPLUGS!
I got myself the type DJs usually get since I use headphones regularly, especially for my radio show and that way, I get extra protection if needed.
DESTRESS WITH CBD OIL
It helps subdue stress, which in turn enables me to fall asleep faster. Good quality sleep means happy me. Happy me is less worried about the constant ringing.
Carl Craig, renowned Detroit producer and tinnitus sufferer, has spoken out about using recordings of Tibetan bowls, to reduce his symptoms.
Eline Van Audenaerde,
Author Bio – Eline Van Audenaerde is a holistic coach, speaker and entrepreneur. She manages The Unicorn Mothership, her own one-woman business. Through holistic coaching, she empowers DJs and producers to build a healthy mindstyle in music so that they can erase the killer effects of a hedonistic lifestyle in electronic music and advocates for equality, diversity and a positive work environment for women in music with the support of shesaid.so.