Throwing Shade on the lack of tinnitus awareness in clubs

Cat Stevens

Cat Stevens

As part of our tinnitus awareness campaign we caught up with Nabihah Iqbal, better known as DJ and producer, Throwing Shade.

Nabihah has wrestled with tinnitus for years, finding it difficult to pinpoint when the disturbance began, “obviously every time you go to gigs as a teenager, your ears ring,” she remembers, “but I’ve had permanent ringing for maybe four or five years.” This story is all-too familiar within the world of music, and while it may be considered ‘normal’ to experience temporary ringing in the ears, it’s a sign of permanent damage. “I wish I’d been told to wear earplugs”, she tells us. “I definitely think there’s a lack of awareness — it took me a long time to realise this is actually a big deal.”

Though she’s suffered for a matter of years, Nabihah has only recently invested in proper, custom earplugs. “I was just wearing the foam ones before”, she explains, “but they’re annoying — they’re really bulky and you can feel them in your ears.” The garish look and feel of foam earplugs is certainly a deterrent for many partygoers, but Nabihah is keen to emphasise the importance of wearing protection, “even the foam ones are better than nothing” she stresses.

Despite what you might have read about tinnitus being a symptom of hearing loss, many tinnitus sufferers describe being hyper-sensitive to noise. Nabihah, too, seems to fall into this category. “When I got my earplugs I also had a hearing test,” she tells us, “and they said I have really good hearing”. In fact, Nabihah, like many others with tinnitus, describes discomfort and even pain at high volumes — “my ears just hurt if the sound is really loud - I can’t get too close. I don’t understand how people can be in those environments without earplugs”.

In light of this, Nabihah tries to manage music volume where she can, “I’m quite conscious when I’m in the studio not to have it blasting out in my face the whole time, like the other people in my building do.” It’s not just in the club that hearing damage can occur, but in everyday environments too. “I don’t listen to loud music in headphones anymore either,” Nabihah tells us, “I barely even use headphones anymore”.

For Nabihah, tinnitus is most annoying at night. “When I’m in a silent place I notice it more,” she says. “The nuisance of the ringing sound can be disruptive — especially when you’re trying to go to sleep”.

Her advice to fellow music lovers is simple: “Wear earplugs! That’s all you need to do! And don’t stand right next to the speaker.” Nabihah also recognises the need to address this issue early - “why aren’t there posters in clubs? I guess that’s not ‘cool’. I think it would be great to do campaigns at uni.” It’s so important to raise awareness before it’s too late. “I think if you start [going to gigs] young or you’re going out a lot, that definitely has a negative impact on your ears - I think it’s really important to start looking after your ears from a young age.”

Nabihah, we’re totally in agreement. Find out more about Throwing Shade through her website; we highly recommend her NTS Radio show!

Written by Harriet Shephard

Learn more about the All Ears campaign here, and find out how you can be a part of it through Your stories.