British Tinnitus Association

Music and Tinnitus

I wanted to get an idea of musicians experience with tinnitus. I’ve been playing in bands for 20+ years and this year started noticing an occasional swirling whistle on one ear. Tests have shown noise induced hearing loss and the tinnitus seems to be constant now though its noticeable mainly when I am at home or alone. I’ve followed advice and bought filtered musicians ear plugs but am very apprehensive that even with this, my tinnitus could get worse. What is other peoples experience?

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I had T for c.10yrs at a level where it didn't cause me any problems or distress - no way of knowing exactly what caused it, but in my case it was more than likely due to accumulated noise exposure from gigs/clubs etc - I did play in a band for about 18mths or so as well. I naively assumed that I had tinnitus and that was all there was to it - it never occurred to me that the T could get worse. Oh my good Christ, I know differently now. My advice to you would be to stop playing in bands and do whatever you can to prevent the T developing into anything worse - avoid loud environments (90db+), protect your hearing when you do find yourself in loud environments and be careful to not strain to hear – if you do that, your brain turns up the volume but that turns your T up as well.

With your hearing loss, has your audiologist suggested hearing aids? Without them, your brain will go looking for the frequencies it’s missing out on and when it doesn’t find them, it’ll fill the gaps with whatever it can find – hence you hear the swirling whistle.

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I'm a bass player, mostly jazz from age 16 to 60s. Played pro up to 35, frequent gigs. I developed tinnitus in my 50s and like Ruud1boy says I got used to it because it was a high pitched "sss" sound which was mostly out of the way. But this week it just got a lot worse, and came down to a louder "shhhh" sound which is REALLY interfering with my brain. I build my own audio equipment and a line stage I just built must have had a serious oscillation in it which I think created an Ultrasound spike of maybe over 100db. Not audible, but my ears immediately hurt and I felt pressure followed by this singing sound, which has stayed at the same level ever since. About 3 days now. As we all know from T it's not unbearable, it's just unbearable. I've been trying to find out more about oscillations in electronic circuits. One thing I've found is that one oscillation can trigger another, so an oscillation in an amplifier can trigger a high pitched resonance frequency in the loudspeaker. My guess is that this is what happened. OK - maybe the moral is don't built your own equipment, and if you do measure it on the bench for oscillations before listening to it. But the point is this - oscillations and resonances can occur at Ultrasound level in audio equipment and the danger is that you can't hear them and you only know about the damage when it's done. T is too debilitating to take any undue risks. I can see some of this in hindsight, but it's already too late.

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It would be a shame to give up something you really love doing. Have you tried out your new earplugs yet? I think if you notice a difference between the way your ears feel after a gig wearing them, then stick with them. If you feel your tinnitus is getting worse, or your hearing is worse, maybe you could talk to your doctor about it, hearing loss and tinnitus can be common with musicians, but the ear plugs could help stop it from getting worse.

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I have been a musician from the age of 5...

I developed mild Tinnitus in my 40's which has progressed into Musical ear syndrome ( MES) with disabilitating hearing loss requiring two aids...

Ironically the music I hear are my favourite classical pieces Mozart, Beethoven and Handel...

Not really an answer to your question though...

Carol..

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