Is This Auditory Condition A Given For DJs, Or Are There Ways That We Can Protect Ourselves?
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As a DJ, musician, and all-round lover of sound, developing tinnitus is a huge concern of mine, and if you’re not worried about it, you need to reassess your opinion on the topic, like… now.
It may not technically be a precursor to full-blown hearing loss, but tinnitus can be incredibly debilitating, affecting both your shows and day-to-day life.
In some instances, it could even mean the end of your career, so if you truly love what you do, protecting your ears should be your number one priority.
That’s why, today, we’re going to put tinnitus under the microscope, discuss what it is exactly, how you can protect yourself from it, and what you can do to alleviate your tinnitus should you already be suffering through it.
What Is Tinnitus?
You know that ringing you’ll hear after a loud show? That’s tinnitus, although it’s not always a whining sound. Sometimes it manifests as a low roaring, and it’s often linked to the popping sounds and irritation of hyperacusis — a reduced tolerance for sound.
It usually fades after a couple of days at most, but in some cases, it decides that it’s here to stay, and it can change everything.
If you experience tinnitus, it doesn’t mean that you’re going deaf, or even that you’ll experience any hearing loss at all, but if you don’t identify the cause of your tinnitus, you may well end up losing some of your hearing.
Exposure to loud noises is only one cause of tinnitus. The condition also has links to a number of adrenaline-based physiological responses, but for me and you, the biggest tinnitus risk factor is definitely the music.
Why Are DJs More At Risk Of Developing Tinnitus?
Most people will experience tinnitus in their lives, as it can occur in times of great stress, exertion, or excitement. It’s a response to the adrenaline coursing through our system.
However, in these instances, the ringing is caused by our ears going into overdrive in order to help us deal with our overwhelming situation.
This function stems from the early days of human existence when our world was a lot more dangerous, and fight or flight response was essential to our survival.
If we sensed there was a predator nearby, the adrenalin would pump, push our nervous systems into overdrive, and send our ears into hypersensitivity mode.
The ringing you hear is your brain desperately searching for signals, no matter how small, to give you the best possible chance of surviving the encounter. Usually, it will fade away when your adrenaline levels mellow and you start focusing on other things.
Tinnitus can also be caused by the hair cells in our cochlear falling into disrepair due to exposure to lots of loud noises, which is why DJs, musicians, and frequent concert goers are at a greater risk of developing a long-standing variation of the condition.
These tiny hair cells in the cochlear are responsible for both the amplification and transformation of soundwaves into electrical signals that our brain can understand, and there’s only so much noise they can handle.
Over time, the cells wear out, causing minor disruptions in the soundwave/electrical signal transition process.
The ear then goes searching for the missing information, and the brain translates this action as a high-pitched whining, like the feedback when you hold a guitar too close to an amplifier.
Can Tinnitus Be Cured?
Technically speaking, tinnitus cannot be cured, but there are plenty of things you can do to reduce the severity of the condition and minimize the effect it has on your life.
We’ll discuss these alleviation tips in just a moment, but first, let’s explore how you can protect yourself from ever developing tinnitus.
What Can We Do To Avoid Developing Tinnitus?
The good news is that you don’t have to quit the good life to save yourself from tinnitus. You can still be a super successful, passionate, and prolific DJ while protecting your hearing. It all just takes a bit of awareness and a conscious effort to be kind to your ears.
Wear Molded Earplugs Or In-Ear Monitors During Shows
When I was cutting my teeth in the local scene as a youngster, there was this ridiculous notion that earplugs weren’t cool, and I totally bought into it. I thought it was crazy that a DJ would want to block out sound during a show.
Thankfully, I’ve outgrown my I’m-young-and-invincible phase, and now I know better: the best possible thing you can do to prevent tinnitus is to invest in something like these pro-grade Eargasm High Fidelity Earplugs.
These little devices maintain all audio clarity but knock the decibels down to a safe level, ensuring your cochlear cells survive the show unscathed. Better yet, get into the habit of using in-ear monitors, as they offer more customizability in terms of what you hear.
Avoid Gigging Every Single Day
I know this sounds like a terrible idea, especially if you’re trying to establish yourself as a key player in your local scene, but giving your ears time to rest between stressful episodes is essential to maintaining auditory health.
If you’re just starting to get regular slots, negotiate with the promoter, and try to stagger your shows.
Limit Long Shows
There’s nothing like a good all-night show, but these long-scale events are going to put a lot of stress on your ears, so, if possible, keep them as an every now and again blowout.
Give The Good Stuff A Rest
Most drugs have an effect on your adrenaline levels, even alcohol, and caffeine. Consuming too many of these mind-altering substances isn’t only bad for your general health, but it can make you more susceptible to developing tinnitus.
Furthermore, when you’re on drugs, you’re more likely to crank the volume in your headphones and monitor to compensate for your impaired senses, so it’s best to cut them out of your life, or at least leave them be until you’re out of the club.
A good diet and plenty of exercise wouldn’t go amiss either.
I’m sure this sounds like a massive bummer to some, but, silver linings… if you’re not messed up during your shows, they’ll be a lot tighter — trust me!
Ask Yourself If Your Monitors, Headphones, And Speakers Need To Be This Loud?
When you’re setting up for a show, be aware of the volumes at work. Do they really need to be as loud as they are? The answer is almost always no.
Book Frequent Ear Exams And Hearing Tests
Take your ears to a professional as often as you can. They’ll be able to tell you if the other protective measures you’ve put in place are working, or if you need to take more drastic actions to protect your hearing.
They’ll also give your ears a good clean, meaning you’ll be able to turn down the volume without giving up the same sense of loudness you’ve been enjoying.
How To Alleviate The Effects Of Tinnitus
If you already suffer from tinnitus, all the prevention methods listed above should still be observed to prevent it from getting any worse, but you can also ease your condition with the following steps.
Learning about your condition is the first step. Once you have the details, you can work on reducing the impact it has on your life.
Learning To Relax
As tinnitus is closely related to adrenalin and the physiological aspects of our emotions, it’s important that you “practice” calm. You can try yoga, Tai Chi, mindfulness, meditation, controlled breathing, massage, a combination of them all… whatever works for you.
When your mind is calm and your nervous system is balanced, you’ll notice the presence of your tinnitus fade.
CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) has also proven an effective means of stress relief, helping to ease the severity of tinnitus.
Live A Healthy Lifestyle
Eat your greens and vegetables, get plenty of exercise, drink lots of water, and both your body and mind will get stronger. A healthy lifestyle leads to a well-balanced nervous system, and a positive, serene life outlook.
Avoid Negative Information About Your Condition Online
Try not to get too bogged down in all the negative tinnitus stories on forums across the internet. These are only going to cause more stress and exacerbate your condition.
Take Advantage Of Sound Masking
You can use a white noise sound machine to cover your tinnitus and pull focus away from the ringing and roaring. It can be an absolute lifesaver if your tinnitus is preventing you from finding sleep.
You don’t have to use white noise. If you’d prefer a more relaxing sound mask, this Douni Sleep Sound Machine is full of more relaxing sounds, such as whale songs and ocean waves.
Live Peacefully And Enjoy What You Do
I have asthma, and if my breathing gets bad when I don’t have a preventer around, I play an instrument to calm myself and focus my mind. The same principles apply to tinnitus.
It’s important that you have something that you can turn to during a flare-up that will calm you down and draw focus. This could be a breathing technique, cooking, going for a run, or reading a few chapters of a book. As long as it centers you, it’s a winner.
How Can A DJ Avoid Tinnitus? — Summing Up
Tinnitus can be a truly awful auditory condition, but you shouldn’t let the risks pertaining to loud music affect your dreams of being a successful DJ.
As long as you’re aware of these risks and take the proper precautions, all will be well, and you can enjoy your passion to the fullest extent.