Wanted: Silence in my ears

If you’ve started reading this article, it’s obvious that you’re a passionate music lover. You go to concerts, sing along and you always have your favorite music with you on your IPod. When listening to it, you play it louder than hell (‘cause you promised that you would, like Manowar taught you in their song, “The Gods Made Heavy Metal”). But Manowar didn’t tell you anything about tinnitus, did they?


Tinnitus (Latin for “ringing”) is a condition characterized by ringing, wheezing or swishing that is heard in the ear or head. Why does this “beeeep” or “tuuuuuuuuut” suddenly appear in your ears after an overwhelming concert? It’s simple: your ears are damaged because they can’t handle the loudness. The damaged nerves in your ear result in a kind of short circuit that causes your brain to tell you you’re hearing sounds that are not actually there around you. That doesn’t mean that the ringing or wheezing is imaginary; it’s not. It’s just created by your brain. If the ringing in your ears disappears after a few days, you can be relieved. Also, take it as a warning. The next time you expose your ears to very loud noise, the damage could be permanent. 17% of the general popula- tion has Tinnitus that is permanent. A few of the RMP readers got in touch and shared their stories about how Tinnitus changed their life. They all got their ears damaged by not wearing any kind of hearing protection during playing shows or going to shows in small venues. Listening to music on their IPod on a high volume also contributed to the ringing in their ears. They are really bothered by the damage that’s done and were forced to change their way of life. Meet Daniel, Thibault, Timon, Frederik and Christian.

Daniel played music without wearing earplugs and has Tinnitus now.

“Whenever there is silence, all I hear is a high pitched note in my ears. Due to this, it’s often hard to get to sleep. I have to turn on a fan to create white noise to drown it out,” he says.

Thibault was also convinced that he had tinnitus and started to research on the internet about it, but this wasn’t a good idea.

“I started to see everything in a negative way because of all the negativ- ity about it online. I even started doubting if my life was still worth living. I went to see an audiologist, and he told me I should try to live with it. If I think less about Tinnitus, I have the feeling I hear it less too. I really recommend you to protect your ears, but otherwise, the silence in your head disappears forever.”

Is there anything you can do to solve Tinnitus and bring the silence back? There’s no 100% guaran- teed remedy found yet. Some people can get rid of it by taking medications such as Cortisone, as Timon did. He took Cortisone pills for two weeks, and his ears fully recovered. He bought custom earplugs to avoid his ears getting damaged again. Other people try different things.

For example, Frederik is taking TRT: Tinnitus Retraining Therapy. In this therapy, he learns to sup- press the ringing and tries to hear it as normal sound in the environment. By doing this, he activates a process in the brain where it considers the sound as normal to have around. This process works to his advantage because these normal sounds are repressed, so he doesn’t hear them anymore. You could compare it to a fan or refrigerator that makes noise and that you don’t hear anymore after being around it for a while. Frederik’s Tinnitus didn’t disappear yet. The ringing gets worse when he is stressed out or tired, and when he has a really bad day, he doesn’t even leave his house.

Christian tried to learn deep relaxation techniques to focus less on the ringing in his ears.

“So far it’s been a lot easier to live with it. The ringing doesn’t really bother me as much as it used to. But still the Tinnitus changed my life: In some way or another, it manages to cripple my social life because I try to avoid just about anything with loud noise. Finally, whenever I’m around loud noise I just want to get out of wherever I’m at. I’m also now very selective with what shows I’ll attend. In brief, I just simply try to avoid my ears from further auditory damage by avoiding all sorts of loud places.”

What can you do to protect your ears? I’m sure you know the answer too because it’s very obvi- ous: use earplugs. James Cross, a sound engineer, further explains this:

“There are several types of earplugs available, each with a different purpose and cost. Most people are probably familiar with the cone shaped foam earplugs. These earplugs provide good overall protection when used properly, but they affect the sound quality by reducing the high frequencies more than the low. This means everything you hear will sound muddy. You can get foam earplugs for less than 50 cents a pair. For serious concertgoers, musicians, or sound engineers, I would recommend custom earplugs with filters that lower the volume of the noise. The customs are designed to affect the sound only minimally, while providing adequate hearing protection. The filters typically come in 9dB, 15dB and 25dB models, and each filter is interchangeable. The 15dB offers the best frequency response, reducing levels evenly across the field. The 9dB is really quite weak, so I wouldn’t recommend that one. Personally, I use the 25dB. Custom earplugs range from about €180-200, including getting a mould of your ears from an audiologist. The up front cost is high, but they will last long if you take care of them.”

So please if you think you have tinnitus, don’t ask for advice from Dr. Google; he might make you panic or overreact. Go see a real audiologist, take care of your ears and invest in custom made earplugs. It’s for your own benefit.