Us musicians are a bit of a weird bunch. We make something as intangible as music for a major part of our lives. Music that overwhelms us, gives us and everyone around us listening the greatest joy. We fit ourselves into the so called musician’s lifestyle. We listen to music, we practice, we write, we perform and whenever we are free, we make some more music. Such is more or less the daily routine of a professional musician. Some of us were lucky to turn our passions into our daily bread and butter.
A Musicians Lifestyle
In this so called lifestyle. We are at constant exposure to loud sounds on a daily basis, and that too at different levels. This goes on until our ears complain and say they cannot take it anymore. They start sending small signals that it is time to stop or suffer.
I am a guitarist and have been playing semi-professional music for about a decade. I started very young and would amp up the output so that everyone could hear more than what was actually needed. I would listen to loud music nonstop for hours at a stretch. Sometimes I would even let the playlist play on my speakers while I took naps. This eventually did not go well with my body, especially with my ears.
The Warning Signs of Tinnitus
Around two months back, while recording for a song I started noticing a slight ringing in my right ear. It was more like a constant low hum, sort of white noise. I immediately went into panic mode because I knew what it was. Some of my musician mates already have it. They call it the “musicians curse’. Upon googling I confirmed that it was in fact Tinnitus. I was already having this for a week until I had noticed for sure. While I was still hopeful for this not to be permanent, I decided to visit an ENT Doctor.
At times a proper diagnosis is not possible. My ENT told me this was the result of an ear infection or maybe a genetic allergy. I was sure that this was not the reason. I told him of my routine yet he seemed unmoved insisting that I take some more tests.
Confirmation of Tinnitus
I was fortunate that I did not have to go for any hearing loss treatment. According to the reports, my ear’s frequency response and hearing levels were good. In a majority of the cases, I learned that Tinnitus accompanies Sensorineural Hearing Loss. After the test results, the Doctor prescribed some medicines. Which surprisingly, increased the Tinnitus intensity. The ringing sound started in my left ear as well. I immediately stopped my medication and revisited him. Only to know from him that there is no current treatment or medicines to cure Tinnitus. All that I could do was to control and lower its intensity. I was very fortunate that my Tinnitus was and still is a mild one.
To Live with Tinnitus
I had to take a hard look at the grim situation. I had to rethink of my career and whether it is viable to carry on as a musician. Just in case the Tinnitus aggravates further. I spent a lot of my time researching on the Internet forums looking for cases that are same as mine. I joined support groups online where I was able to get a lot of empathy and good advice from fellow sufferers.
Eventually, I decided to put everything to rest. And take an extended break of three to four months while my ears recover and heal. In reality, Tinnitus does not bother me much. But the thought of having to live with this condition throughout my life. And at all times has made me quite anxious and worried.
Dealing with Tinnitus
While majorly, the present cure is all about the habituation with Tinnitus. There is nothing specific that modern medicine has been able to come up when it comes to pure relief. Or the complete silence, that I long to hear. I still carry hope Tinnitus is curable. With a balanced and healthy lifestyle coupled with Yoga, good food and nutrients. There are several successful cases where this healthy routine has done the trick.
Loud music is strict no for me from now on. I have also started using earplugs regularly. I try to educate my fellow friends and musicians how to use safe sound levels in whatever activity they do. As is best said, prevention of Tinnitus is better than cure.
The writer of this article has requested that he remains Anonymous. We respect his wishes.
The writer is a session guitarist and a backing vocalist active in the Kolkata and East India area. He has been active in the local scenes for nearly a decade. Working on a different range of genres and industry formats. He also dabbles in film compositions as an alumnus of the National film school. Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute. And is presently working to launch himself as a solo artist.