06 Feb 2013
As a music publisher, you could say we’re in the ear business! Music genres are pushing more frequency boundaries nowadays and with the increase in digital music platforms and audio products like celebrity endorsed headphones, we should really be making sure we look after our ears. Most people have regular health checks but how many of us get hearing tests?
I used to think I had tinnitus because I played the drums from an early age and the high pitched cymbals would end up ringing in my ears afterwards or too many nights out at gigs left me saying “pardon?” a little too regularly. Perhaps I had mild tinnitus? Ever had the same feeling?
Tinnitus can affect either ear, both or be in the head. It is usually described as a ringing noise or high-pitched whining.
Many people don’t actually know that some patients are just more sensitive to everyday sounds like the TV or radio being painfully loud when in fact it is normal volume. This is known as hyperacusis.
Last week Noel Gallagher revealed that he was recently diagnosed with tinnitus. Although he had to sit in a tub in hospital, he still said, “I’ve had a bloody great time playing guitar for the last 20 years and if I do eventually die of brain disease, it will have been worth it”.
Many musicians such as Will.I.am, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Chris Martin and The Who's Pete Townshend are also fellow sufferers...
This week (in England) is Tinnitus Awareness Week. On Monday I went to one of the events being held over the country. You can just turn up to get leaflets or products to help with tinnitus, have hearing tests, or just professional advice from an audiologist.
Causes of tinnitus
The most common cause is excessive noise but contributory factors can also be the build-up of earwax , a middle ear infection or an inherited condition where an abnormal bone growth in the middle ear causes hearing loss or a condition that affects a part of the inner ear known as the labyrinth. This can also cause balance problems.
Another thing to think about is if you use ear buds to clean your ears, they can actually push the wax into the ear canal and block or cause infection, so use them carefully.
From this month, all personal music players sold in the EU (including mobile phones) are expected to have a sound limit of 85 decibels (dB). This is about as loud as busy city traffic and research suggests that the safe listening time period for this level is no longer than 8 hours a day. And interestingly if you turn it up by only 3db, you are in fact reducing your safe listening time by half.
Listening to Music
We need to make sure the quality of the devices we listen to music on are up to a certain standard. We must ensure not to damage our hearing by using tiny in-ear headphones that have a narrow frequency range, then turned up to the max because the person next to you is listening to something louder!
Remember that sound is essentially just waves of pressure moving from your headphones to your ears and back. If there isn’t much room for the sound to escape then your ears will become fatigued. Think of it like wearing a face mask for a few hours, you want to take it off to breathe properly.
The bottom line
There are studies into developing drug treatments for tinnitus but the bottom line is
• just turn it down even 1 or 2 notches,
• consider wearing ear plugs when you go to gigs,
• and take a break as stress is known to irritate your hearing.
If you have concerns about you or any of your family members hearing, visit your GP or you can do a free, quick, online hearing check via the charity RNID. I did and it turns out I may have hearing loss.