Jun 14, 2016

I can’t have silence

This weeks blog is by Ash. He’s had tinnitus since he was 17. Here’s his story – please read and please share:


Ashley Barber


“I remember the day, it was a Friday in August 1985, I had been having trouble with my ears so had been to see the Doc, “No wonder you can’t hear anything, your ears are full of wax! Stick these drops in everyday and come back next week and we’ll have them syringed,” “Ok,” I said, “See you next week.”


A bit about me at that time, I’m 17 big into the punk scene, red mohican and an aspiring bassist, been playing in bands for about 2 years, more rehearsals than actual gigs, but took every opportunity to see live bands, the louder the better!!


Anyway back to the doc’s for the unblocking of my ears. After a lot of water squirted, things poked in, they were done and in a dish in front of me were what could only be described as a pair of nasty brown candles! Wow I could hear clearly, it was amazing. So I thank the nurse and head out into this new bright sounding world.


That evening off to see local legends DIY Lobotomy, a very loud punky band. It was a great gig and when it was over, I walked (crawled) home with a smile on my face and the usual ringing in my ears, signifying a great night was had.


I got up the next morning, ears still ringing – not that unusual, next morning, still ringing, next morning…well you get the picture.


30 years on and now I have 4 distinct noises, one high pitched (about 11kh) that can be more prominent one ear over the other but is always present, a wooshie noise that is predominantly in my right ear, a low brrrrrr in my left that comes and goes and finally a tic, tic that comes and goes right in the middle of my head! They are loud enough to be heard in most situations and when I set my In-Ear Monitors on stage I set just loud enough so I can’t hear it.


I have been working as a musician for most of my life battling with tinnitus. To be honest it was considered an occupational hazard, a badge of honour and the amount of musicians out there who still think like that amazes me.


You’d think you would get used to it, but you never do, I can’t have silence, I have to have some kind of noise (usually music) to be able to distract myself from it, sometimes I don’t sleep for days because it won’t let me, I can’t think because it won’t let me, sometimes I just want to hit myself in the head just to try and make it stop! (it doesn’t).


I’ve tried CBT, all the mindfulness and learning to “love” the tinnitus but to no avail. I’m being treated for depression partly caused by the tinnitus. The only reason it hasn’t totally ruined my life is I won’t let it!


I wish I’d known then what I know now, I wish there had been advice about protecting your ears, but would I have taken it? I know some of the kids I speak to now don’t listen, but when I play them what it sounds like in my head most take note.


The silver lining in the noisy cloud is that I wouldn’t be doing what I do now if it wasn’t for the tinnitus. I run a business selling and fitting custom In-Ear products and take talks in colleges etc on hearing protection and the prevention of tinnitus. I firmly believe that I wouldn’t be able to play live anymore if it wasn’t for good quality custom earplugs and In-Ear Monitors that I now use. I would probably go as far as to say that they saved my life, as I don’t think I could cope if it was much worse!


I’m still gigging every week and love my job, but people should know it isn’t without risk to your health and well-being, but with the right protection it doesn’t have to be a problem.


So don’t forget, Plug’em and Love Your Ears!”

Comments (2)

  • bryan
    Nov 16, 2016

    if i continue playing even with sikicon ear plugs in a loud rock band is the problem going to worsen-? Being hard about it, is it best to stop now before things do get worse

    • Emily Broomhead
      Nov 17, 2016

      Hi Bryan. It’s important to protect your hearing and if you are in a band, you may need to look into investing in some custom moulds which will protect you, and allow you to keep doing the thing you love.If you need any help with the tinnitus please get in touch with us at the BTA via info@tinnitus.org.uk and if you look on http://www.plugem.co.uk/directory you will see we are compiling a list of where to buy which should also help.


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