Around 2006, I notice strange sensations in my right ear.

“What is this?”

The first time I heard it I was creating music on headphones and I was beefing up the low-end of a snare. I was receiving a weird crackling in my right ear. I said to my self, I don’t remember putting an echo on that snare.

The crackling was from me. I was baffled by this. Milliseconds after a sound would hit, I would hear crackling of bread wrapper coming from my ear. It gradually came on. From 2006 onward to 2008, I started to realize I developed a I high pitch ringing in both ears, while also gaining an increased sensation of sound, hyperacusis.

Around 2008, I was going nuts with sounds of the ringing in my head. Sometimes I’d just lay on the floor staring at the ceiling with agonizing ringing. I was still creating music but very little. Listening to music became a chore. I lost a lot of pleasure from listening to new music.

I went from one doctor to another trying to understand. I wasn’t one to listen to music in extreme volumes. I didn’t believe I damaged my ears. I kept digging to find what it could have been. I thought maybe it was fights I got involved in while in High school and I wondered if it was potentially caused by a punch to the jaw or around the ear. I had problems with my jaw opening and closing, I thought it could be related to TMJ.ear-anatomy2 (1)

Or I thought – was it something that was set from the beginning, since I often had ear infections as a child – in my right ear too.

The first doctor I saw did nothing. He seemed to have a collection of framed spectacles for every day of the week – highly eccentric. He made a joke of my ears. I was asking what I could do to stop the ringing, extreme hearing and sensitivity to regular everyday sounds. He scoffed and said well hey, look on the bright side you can now look into cracking safes. I couldn’t believe it. He said I had tinnitus.

Later on, I made appointments with my dentist to examine my jaw. I was looking for the answer anywhere to help my ears. I told him about my tinnitus, he offered me a solution and explained everything. He was misleadingly soft-spoken. He reassure me to get a dental appliance in my mouth. I had to wear it for more than a year to straighten my jaw – stop the popping/clicking when it opened and stop the ringing.

The dentist said that the realignment would ameliorate the sensations of ringing in the ears. It took a couple of hours to have it fitted in my mouth. It fitted on my bottom teeth. It gave me a kind of under bite look with them on.teeth-dental-appliance

He took his machines and measured everything. He would ask me at what point my jaw opens that I feel there is excessive ringing. When I was through with the year, it helped a bit. I reluctantly thanked him.

I didn’t know if I had lost a significant amount of ringing through time, the alignment, nutrition/supplementation or placebo but it seemed to be better than what I had started. I couldn’t pinpoint the degree of effectiveness. It was a costly procedure. To this day, I lean towards it being a placebo effect.

I’d also gone to an Ear and Throat Doctor as well as an audiologist. They told me nothing but “Live with it.” That was a hard blow. But I was convinced that I haven’t had lost any hearing according to an audiologist.audiology_600x375

The audiologist, had a masculine, iron jaw, good for boxing, but she was cordial. She tested my ears while I was equipped with headphones in a sound proof room. All the while she made buzzing and beeping sounds in the headphones that reached the entire audible frequency spectrum, which she controlled from another room.

I still had sensitive hearing. I often took earplugs up and down when out in public. Especially in concerts and theatres or places where it was packed with people, since when I didn’t have them – my ears would distort into an cacophony primarily in my right ear, almost like a broken speaker. It gave an overall impression of dread and anxiety. That panic mostly developed from fear of losing my hearing. When it got too loud in a place, I’d bolt for the door. Using earplugs everywhere I discovered it actually increased my sensitive hearing, I wouldn’t recommend it unless it’s necessary. It paradoxically increases your hearing.

earplugsHaving this kind of ear problem is not exactly flattering for a musician/producer. Where sounds need to be heard over and over again to reproduce the desired results. At one point, I didn’t want to go out much because my ears bothered me. It became isolating. It was a dire situation.

But I eventually found solace in this isolation. I refused to claim myself a victim to this nonsense. I realized I can still make music, if at first with less volume. As slowly as I got better while keeping away from people, I realized this afforded me time to improve my music and my self. Aspiring to become better. Improving myself as best I can be, whether that was through fitness, meditating, becoming mindful, reading great books of non-fiction and eating right. While my ears are not 100% I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve made improvements.

I wouldn’t regret the progress I’ve made in myself, from the onset. The struggle, the burden of damaged ears actually pushed me in the direction of becoming better in a weird way.

I’ve searched the internet to find what I have, reading other people’s issues. Trying to find solutions. If you are reading this and have a similar problem, I’d say don’t give up.

If I could recommend supplements for ringing ears that I feel has progressively helped me,  it would be the Natural Vitality Magnesium.

Knowing magnesium is often found to be deficient in most people and according to the reviews, I though it would help.

It’s great for gathering a sense of calm if you have stress, it will put you in a better mood and you will get a fantastic boost of efficient sleep. I use this as a tea or put it in some juice in the morning and at night. I definitely notice a difference. When I take a good dose it makes me sleepy and the ringing is more contained and distant. I dig the cherry flavor.

I’ve surprised myself with how much musical output I have now. The old me would have said it was not possible. But one of the greater realizations and simple takeaways was that what you focus on gains strength.

I really tried to “Live with it.” When I would focus on my ringing ears it would get more audible. When I focused on something else it felt subtle. I took deliberate action and kept myself busy with different activities. I gained a laser focus on my projects. Maniacally obsessed. Musical Zen.4e21e5346e214d6816073f878cdc2fb6

It was odd, but it was true. I had to pay no mind. So the obstacle of overcoming damaged ears manifested. This conceived my tenacity and discipline in a way, to keep to my projects and work no matter what the circumstance. With that on my shoulders, it served as a reminder for obstacles that may come my direction in the future.

Now, I use that obstacle as fuel to overcome more. The days are much easier to get by than from the onset. The ringing is not as bad as it once was.  I thank God my ears are not any worse.

I’d recommend protecting your ears, if you think it’s too loud, then it’s too loud. I know a couple of musicians who have ear/head problems so take heed. If you work with sound, please be vigilant. You can lose your hearing or damage your ears. Once those ear hairs are gone, they’re gone. You can pray for stem cells in the future, but I don’t know how likely that is.

If you had this problem you may look into what the owner of the UFC, Dana White did. Though I don’t have his exact problem, it’s a remarkable story nonetheless.

I produce music and I tell myself it’s a gift and a curse sometimes. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Nova-Spire-Musician-Electronica-Composer-With-Guitar

– NOVA SPIRE

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11 thoughts on “Living With Tinnitus As A Musician/Producer

  1. I have a bit of that ringing in my year. Not quite as bad as you had. And given that I used to muck around with studio recording and live gig setup, it bothered me. But I’ve moved on.

    Brave of you to plug on and being positive.

  2. this is pretty inspiring being a musician myself, it must be so difficult yet what a rewarding feat to be able to fight and overcome something with courage, this in some ways reminds me of ryan adams great artist with a great story like yours.

  3. I kinda have the same problem. First discovered it when I was having a party at my house. When everyone was trying to have a conversation and it got louder, I suddenly heard this static noise which was accompanied by pain. Like you, I am not the type to listen to loud music and I always use the lowest sound level possible with my earbuds. I speculate this problem to have come from a time I accidentally pressed the volume button increasing the sound while listening to my headphones. Glad that I am not in the music industry and don’t have to deal with the constant pain. I hear that static noise once in a while whenever I am in a noisy setting but other than that, it hasn’t bother me that much.

  4. This is such an amazingly uplifting story. I have just been diagnosed with tinnitus after having loud ringing in my ears for the past month (I am a musician, but ridiculously enough it was caused by a common cold!). I have been planning a new project for the past year, and I am even studying sound production and audio engineering, to take my writing to the next level. That all seemed to go to pieces when I could no longer stand being in certain rooms – including my quiet studio with my piano, uke and computer set up – due to the overwhelming sound from my ears.

    It’s really great to read how you’ve overcome the issues caused by your T – there are too many scary forums preparing you for a life of pure doom and gloom – I’m saving this article to come back to whenever I need a reminder that I can still do the one thing I am best at and enjoy most in life! Thank you!

  5. Yes, there have been all kinds of stories which people have ended up with some kind of tinnitus with one reason or another. Thank you for your comment, it’s greatly appreciated! I hope you can continue to do what you are most passionate about, I wish you all the best!

  6. I’m a musician, 22 years old and I struggle from severe tinnitus. It was repeated noise exposure and not stopping what I was doing, in terms of high volume stuff after developing tinnitus that caused me to end up with a more severe condition. I hear it over everything and at times it’s hard to deal with, silence is a distant memory for me now but I too have decided to keep going on making music and producing. I’ve had tinnitus for about 6-7 years but it’s got worse over that time than it’s onset. I find peace in creating music and will be putting out my first EP soon.

    Best of luck in life sir, keep going.

  7. Hi, I’m a guitar player,age 46, going through very similar situation with Tinnitus, now it’s been 3 years. What struck me is how you describe that through Tinnitus you are actually improving your musical skills and your work – this is very weird and surprisingly I have it the same way, I now concentrate better on practicing and composing, I focus more and I am more systematic then before. Long time ago I read some spiritualistic article about tinnitus, saying that it is a gift from the God and how it makes us better, I was laughing but then I couldn’t get it out of my head, because in fact I got much better over these 3 years compare to 27 years of playing guitar before. Again, very weird but true. Maybe it’s just that overcoming problems makes us stronger, perhaps it’s that simple, take a look at Django Reinhardt or Tony Iommi… anyway, good luck to you and all otherTinnitus sufferers.

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