Will is Head of Music Technology at Hurstpierpoint College and a musician living with Tinnitus. Will shares his story below and offers advice for anyone not wearing earplugs.
"When I was around 16-17 I would go to gigs and listen to music at loud volumes on headphones often.
My ears would ring for a while after concerts but I thought it was the sign of a good show! The more shows I went to, the longer the ringing would last for afterwards. I wasn’t concerned initially. In my early 20s, as I was in bands and rehearsing in loud practice rooms, and playing at loud gigs, I noticed that the ringing wasn’t getter quieter in between shows. In my mid to late 20s it started to get worse and I became very worried that my hearing was worsening and the ringing would only get louder.
At first I ignored the symptoms and early signs of Tinnitus. It is very subtle to start with and gradually gets worse and worse. I started trying cheap universal fit plugs and experimented with size and shape to find what worked for me. Last year the ringing was getting much worse so I saw a doctor and eventually a specialist. After some tests it all came back clear so I decided to invest in custom plugs.
I have multiple pairs of plugs and carry some on me at all times. A pair of Proguard and Alpine Universal fit plugs, and I have a pair of ACS PRO27 custom fit plugs too which I use at concerts and whilst riding motorcycles.
I am very fortunate that my hearing has not been affected. I have had multiple hearing tests and they have all come back just fine. The ringing changes in intensity over time for me. If I stay away from loud sound, it will become a subtle white noise after a few months. If I am exposed to a loud sound without plugs, I will have a ringing that can last for days or even weeks. At its worst, I can hear it while there are other noises around, and it can keep me from falling asleep. Sometimes one ear might ‘ping’ and suddenly go deaf or have a loud ringing in. This is (so far) temporary but is a reminder that I have to be careful.
Wear plugs early and religiously. As a musician, it will affect the sound you hear, but not by much. I didn’t like it at first but all I have lost in rehearsals is the very top frequencies of the cymbals and guitars. Everything is better balanced and I am able to concentrate for longer as I’m not getting fatigued. Wear plugs when you think you may not need them; at concerts, bars, on motorcycles, in a convertible, on a plane. When you’re used to it, the quiet is great. Get plugs that are subtle so that you don’t feel self conscious wearing them."