Alex from London’s tinnitus was triggered by a single night


For some people the noise grows over time. It starts with a casual ring in the ears after a night out. But before long the sound follows you into the next day, and then the next.

But not for me. My tinnitus was triggered by a single night. I was 16 or 17 and really into shoegaze - the kind of murky krautrock that prides itself on being both rhythmically complex and very loud. A krautrock band that showed early promise was TOY and I was at a club between the railway arches underneath Charing Cross in London to see them for the first time.

The sound was off and I was standing too close to the speakers. I wasn’t wearing ear protection nor did I think I needed to. I had never felt that hypersensitive sensation before, like pain but different. And then something cracked, like when a nerve catches in the back on your neck. I left the gig early, confused and irritated with a high-pitched wail in my ears.

It wasn’t until I woke up the next day and found the ringing that usually accompanied me to sleep had followed me into the next day. I hoped when I returned from college it would be gone. The next day it was still there, lurking somewhere in my skull between my ears. The sound followed me around for the five days before I decided to even mention it to anyone. It took me two weeks before I went to my GP. In hindsight, I should have been in A&E the moment I realised I’d done permanent damage to my ears.

I thought hearing damage was the preserve of ageing rock stars like The Who’s Pete Townshend, who spent a career next to speakers blasting white noise. Really, it’s a very real concern for music lovers of all types but especially those in the dance music community.

The effects of tinnitus can be debilitating. Minor depression, at least for the first few years, is not uncommon. Some people report they feel it affects their whole life. Personally, the first year was the toughest. It does get better. Now that I’ve forgotten what silence sounds like, it’s harder to miss it.

I don’t go out now without decent ear protection. It was tough to adjust to wearing earplugs out in part because nobody else was wearing them. Wearing protection should be the badge of a seasoned raver, not an embarrassment. It should be the mark of someone who enjoys the music, and wants to keep on enjoying the music for as long as they can.

Written by Alex Green from London
Alex writes for Mixmag and more, follow him on Twitter - @alexjohngreen.

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