Phil Dacey made the switch to music-specialised earplugs
I've had tinnitus since I was about 16. I've always loved music and noticed at a very young age that it sounds better when you turn it up. From personal stereos to home listening to where I stood in a club or at a gig, I'd always be looking to get that extra bit of volume to make the music that bit more exciting.
I was lucky enough to have parents who like music too (and who also have hearing problems from all the gigs they went to throughout their lives) and they bought me a proper separates hifi when I started secondary school - I got bollocked off my mum one time because I'd set the speakers up facing each other on the floor about three feet apart and I was lying with my head in between them listening to Dark Side of the Moon at an "inappropriate" volume.
I've been going to gigs since I was a kid. My parents took me to see Prince when I was five or six and I've been listening to music at every opportunity, live and recorded, since then (I'm 35 now). Music is massively important to me, it's an integral part of my life and accompanies almost everything I do.
I learnt to live with tinnitus pretty quickly, though there were a few weeks of panic as I realised that this ringing sound was never going to go away. Sleep was difficult at first, mainly because of that feeling that there was absolutely nothing I could do to get rid of the noise (though I think some people use white noise generators as a distraction). It has never stopped me listening to music or going to gigs or clubs but recently it's been getting worse. Sometimes if I'm feeling a bit under the weather or I'm coming down with a cold my tinnitus gets worse. If I get a build up of wax in my ear it goes completely mental - like someone holding a whistling kettle to my ear 24/7 without end - and the only thing that fixes it is getting my ears syringed. If I didn't know that the syringing worked and I thought that level of tinnitus was permanent I'm not sure what I'd do. Probably try to eat my own ears off, to be honest.
Although I do love music, one of the saddest things about having tinnitus is that I'll never know true silence again.
I didn't really start thinking about earplugs until I started going to Subdub in Leeds, a dub soundystem party with extremely loud (ridiculous, really) music. They handed foam earplugs out on the door and I think my first reaction was to scoff and ignore them. I kept going back and my ears would take longer to recover so I started wearing them. It kind of ruined the music but did help my ears to not feel absolutely battered for the week following the dance. One of the things that gets you at a night like that is trying to have a conversation on the dancefloor, because in order to be heard you have to scream into your friends ears, and they into yours, so it's not just the music that does the damage.
I reckon I've got a good few decades left in me and I want to keep enjoying music until the day I die. I actually went for a hearing screening test today, coincidentally, and I'm booked in for a full one next week. I've been meaning to get some proper music-specialised earplugs for years now. God knows why I've waited so long but this is me sorting that out. I'd been looking at some more expensive options but now I've heard of the All Ears/Alpine ones I'll try them first.
If you love music, for Christ's sake love your ears too. It sounds so obvious when you put it like that...
Written by Phil Dacey