Tinnitus?
August 2nd, 2010

For those of you who are not aware, Tinnitus is what is commonly described as “ringing of the ears”. (As an aside, I am kind of baffled that some people don’t know what it is). Many have heard or experienced what is often described as “ringing in the ears” but I feel that the reality of Tinnitus is scary enough to call it by it’s name. It can happen to anyone, there are a variety of things that can cause it, and it can become a noise so devastatingly loud that it makes it hard for you to live your daily life.

It’s not unheard of (okay, that’s a horrible pun that I seriously did not think about it, I just typed it and there it was) for musicians to get this. In fact, it’s very common, especially for older ones. Amplified instruments are loud as hell, mostly because loud feels awesome, and musicians really like feeling awesome. However, I’ve been TERRIFIED of something like this since I was 21. When I eventually realized that yes, your actions do have consequences, and spending as much time as possible in the presence of loud amplifiers is very likely to do horrible things to your very fragile eardrums, I got some professional earplugs and have since worn those (or a cheap replacement when needed) pretty much every time I’m in the room with an acoustic drum set. If you’ve ever been to a show with me, you’ll know that I am quite vocal about the possibility of severe (no pun intended) hearing loss because of exposure to loud amplified instruments, and that precautions are easy and cheap (thereby full of common sense). If you’ve ever been in a band with me, this has either been a point of supreme agreement or significant contention.

Despite this almost spotless history of wearing plugs of some sort since, I have definitely developed some level of tinnitus, and it seems like it’s pretty recent. While it might have been the kind of thing that I can sort of tune out sometimes, this last week I’ve noticed a ringing in my left ear (it’s not uncommon for it to only be in one ear), specifically at night and in the morning (also not uncommon for it to happen on “schedules”, and to be felt worse in the morning). It seems to wear off during most of the day, blessed be (or maybe it’s just that when there’s enough other things going on it’s hard to hear), but I was feeling it most of this previous evening (prompting this blog post). It’s interesting because I actually tried to listen for it when I got home around 5:30, and couldn’t hear it. Then about 20 minutes later I started noticing it – much earlier then usual. It wore off about 2.5 hours later.

My general impression is that the only consistent thing about tinnitus is that it happens to a lot of people, and that there is no end-all, be-all cure. There seems to be a huge variety of different levels of noise, causes, symptoms, sounds, and other variables with it. So it’s probably just something I’m going to need to try and ignore while I investigate the parts of my life or routine that could be contributing to this. As it is now, if this were to continue for the rest of my life, it’ll be annoying as hell. But it will be do-able. So really, I just hope I can keep it at bay. I’ll keep wearing the earplugs, that’s for sure.

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