There are many side effects to living life too excessively. Drink too much and you’ll have a hangover. Do it for years and you’ll need a new liver. Too much speed you won’t sleep for a night. Too often and you could end up with a serious heart condition. Too much coke and you’ll need viagra before your 30th birthday etc etc you’ve heard all of these before. Much less recognized but just as life changing is tinnitus- the permanent ringing in your ears normally obtained through overexposure to loud noise. Come back from a party and your ears will ring for a day or two, do it too often and the ringing could never go away. With plenty of remedies but no real cure, it is one of the most frustrating and undesirable side effects of enjoying music too fully. The list of people afflicted by it is endless- with Carl Craig, Richie Hawtin, Eats Everything, Rebekah, Dubfire among the more publicised ones. The ringing can be so unbearable it’s caused many an industry professional to retire. Audiologists have dubbed it the only mortal condition they encounter clinically- some people see suicide as the only way out. As one of our readers, we value your well being and want to help you avoid this problem. Together with EarPeace, MEOKO has put together some case studies to help you understand how it will affect your life, as well as some advice on how to prevent it.
My love for house music started at 16. So strong was my attachment to this scene I decided I wanted to make a career for myself in the music industry. After five years promoting warehouse parties, I founded MEOKO. As part of my job, I spend a lot of time at clubs, in festivals, generally in environments where the decibel level is much louder than what is considered ‘safe’. Having been in this industry for so long, you can’t avoid knowing about tinnitus, hearing the stories of those affected or seeing the DJs wearing ear plugs. However, it’s something that’s always at the back of your mind, you always think never me and carry on living life more fully than you realise your body can handle. 12 years on from that first night, it’s suddenly hit me: a strange, unfamiliar noise constantly whistling through my left ear. At first i put it down to water in my ear and assured myself it will pass but unfortuantely for me, three months later and the exact same sound is with me permanently. Sleeping naturally at night is a thing of the past and I find guided meditation tapes are the only way through it. its scary to think i will never know absolute silence again. I do feel i caught it at early stages and so provided I protect my ears at all costs from now on, it should not get any worse. I so wish I had heeded the warning of others and can’t put it out there enough: wear the f*cking ear plugs! Tinnitus might not kill you but a life without music isn’t worth it either!
Nicole Venter, founder of MEOKO
I have been suffering from Tinnitus for about 5 years. I’ve always been aware of it, as the ringing in my ears used to come and go. However, after one very long weekend with gigs 5 days in a row, it became permanent. The adaption to it took some serious work: I got myself some professional earplugs, and did a lot of yoga which helps to stretch out the muscles around the ear. I also used to sleep with earplugs in- while the absolute silence made the tinnitus more intense, it made the day much more bearable. The combination worked really well- the tinnitus calmed down and I felt a lot more relaxed about my hearing. However, I got complacent: I was using my earplugs less regularly, until I finally lost them and stupidly didn’t replace them. With the amount of gigs I’ve had abroad, along with WYS at Fabric every Sunday, Mr T has come back stronger than ever. I’ve got some new ear plugs made and use them all the time- but honestly I really wish I hadn’t stopped using them while I still had the chance. Ear plugs might take some getting used to, but the best trick I know is to put them in before you leave your house or hotel. You’ll get used to the sound being lower before you even get to the club, making it feel like you never put anything in in the first place!
Jacob Husley, Promoter / DJ and producer – WetYourSelf! at fabric
I’ve suffered from tinnitus for 5 years, it happened during a long night out. I could feel my ears being irritated by the sound but I did not listen to my body. I was having too much fun and I didn’t care at the time. Physically there is no actual pain, but at first it is very disturbing and stressful- a constant background noise you can’t avoid no matter what you try (mine is a highly irritating high pitched squeal). I’m told you should treat your ears as you would treat your muscles: you can’t work your ears to hard without warming them up, nor can you work them for too long. The louder the music, the less time you should expose your hearing to it- and take breaks! Additionally, wearing ear plugs is essential to preventing tinnitus. Custom made ones are great if you can afford them but there are also good earplugs on the market for less than a score. If it happens, do not stress or worry about it because it make it worse. Some people only suffer temporarily, but even then it should be disturbing enough to make you think twice about wearing ear plugs the next time.
Remi Mazet / Producer & Live Act / Colors, La vie en rose, Halucienda, Hot waves
To help you avoid becoming the next case study, hearing charity Action on Hearing Loss recommend three ways to enjoy events while preventing ear damage:
1- Take regular breaks
2- stand back from speakers
3- wear ear plugs!
One and two are easily done, but wearing ear plugs is the biggest change. Most people’s problem with them is that they dampen the sound at an event and ‘ruin’ the experience. This is true of foam ear plugs, which block sound and muffle the music. However, like buying a pair of good shoes a pair of good ear plugs really can enhance and extend your relationship with music. For music, you specifically want something with high fidelity or acoustic filters. These filters are designed allow sound through clearly at safer volumes. The background noise will be muted, making the music even clearer. There are plenty of brands out there, but our favourite so far has been EarPeace. A company with a fresh take on hearing protection who address the very problems that have detered people in the past. Multiple filters ensure no loss of sound quality, whilst a low profile design and different skin tone options mean they go unnoticed when out. These linear attenuating earplugs are made out of hypoallergenic silicone, so can be reused, and won’t keep falling out of your ears, and they come in a small, stylish aluminium case. In short – these will improve your experience, keeping you free from hearing problems without having to sacrifice your nights. They are also the most value for a affordable amount. If you’re looking at custom moulded plugs, we really like ACS and Reid Audio. ACS have been around for what seems like forever, and Reid Audio have developed the technology to make custom ear plugs in 48 hours.
High fidelity filters, available with silicone or custom moulded plugs, allow sound through clearly yet at safer volumes. High quality brands like EarPeace make plugs out of hypoallergenic silicone, lasting years while being comfortable over long periods of use. They come in nifty little cases and only cost 15 pounds.
On the other hand, custom made plugs start at around £100. Brands like ACS and newcomers Reid Audio are among the most popular and provide good value for money.
Beyond ear plugs, a good idea would be to download a decibel meter onto your phone. While not 100% accurate, it will give you a very good indication of the noise levels in your environment. Using this table, this will help you deduce how long you can stay in that environment before you need a break. Outside of events, you absolutely must buy noise cancelling headphones. Non-cancelling ones, like the iPhone headphones, force you to turn the sound up way too high to cover outside noise. Noise cancelling headphones generally have a silicone tip, which takes the shapes of your ear and acts as a barrier to the noise outside.
We really hope these stories and advice will help you avoid tinnitus. As Nicole said: “it’s one of those things that stays in the back of your mind… and you think ‘never me’”. Everyone who has it thought the same thing. The key really is to listen to your body- if it feels too loud, it definitely is. Only an idiot would think less of you for taking some precaution. A few minutes of loud music aren’t worth a lifetime of hearing sirens in your head, particularly as future events will be sullied by the fear of making it worse. Now see you on the dancefloor….!
MEOKO has also teamed up with EarPeace to secure a discount code for you so that you can get your hands on them 15 % cheaper than usual – because everyone deserves to be protected! Just insert the discount code ‘MEOKOEARS’ when at the checkout…