I have tinnitus – a common problem amongst musicians and people who work and/or live in noisy environments. Quite a few well-known music personalities do also and have spoken up about it (Pete Townshend, Roger Miller of Mission of Burma, etc), but for those who are unfamiliar with it, tinnitus is a general ringing in the ears that is usually the result of sound over-exposure.
My experience is of a noise floor that sounds something like a million tiny crickets that masks quiet sounds, especially delicate high pitched sounds. In a loud world, this can be less noticeable, but retire to a truly quiet place and…there it is. It is something that never goes away and pure silence is something many of us have not experienced for many years.
For the most part, this has been manageable. But of late, I find it takes less and less sound exposure to induce higher levels of ringing and a feeling of fatigue and sensitivity to sound. Not good.
A few weeks ago, I was on tour with Val Esway and El Mirage and my ears pretty much went on strike. I came to the conclusion that I might have to hang up my guitar and start looking for a new career path. This was sobering.
So I came up with some ideas. One – wear earplugs way more often. Duh, right?! Never been so easy, tho. Earplugs are a bit like aural condoms – get my drift? But on they go for all but the most intimate of experiences. Two – cut back on the use of headphones for recording (really damaging). Three – limit critical audio listening and hours spent in front of speakers. Four – try playing quieter music.
For now the plan is to perform less and work on some more acoustic and low volume electric based music. It is something I am excited about. Change is good and I believe lots of cool music will come it.