Tinnitus and the DJ: Suffering in silence
Let's go back to 2003 where this story begins. Picture an aspiring teenager with dreams to become a superstar DJ. By day, he works at an Automotive Parts shop. By night, he’s either practising his craft by 'DJing' at home or in a pub/nightclub 'playing a gig.' Exposure to loud music is normality and an expectation. His name is Nathan Coll.
“You don’t think the things you enjoy will come back to haunt you.”
"When you're at this age in this industry, you think you're unbeatable. You're enjoying your music. You don't think the things you enjoy will come back to haunt you," Nathan reflects. "I'd do the big rave gig in Manchester (UK) and boy... are we talking music that was loud!"
After five years, Nathan was no longer enjoying his music. Although he'd made a name for himself on the circuit, it was still a part-time occupation. The hours were long. He’d work all weekend and then work 9-5 during the week. The opportunity to sleep was scarce. He'd be playing tunes he had no desire to play. Pundit choice and commercial hits would determine his playlist. And so, in frustration and disillusionment with the industry, he quit.
“A blessing in disguise.”
"In hindsight, this was a blessing in disguise," he says. "I had noticed the onset of ringing in my ears after any exposure to music. This ringing would always be short-term, so I thought nothing of this."
A high pitched whine.
And so eight years passed. Nathan would still play the occasional gig. He noticed hearing deterioration in his right ear. The sound of ringing in this ear increased. A high pitched whine. It affected him.
"The sound was relentless. My sleep patterns were out of sync. I felt deprived of energy. Insomnia kept me awake. At times it felt like I couldn't function. It had a detrimental effect on my quality of life."
Eight months passed. The sound in his ear continued to worsen.
“I’d read about the condition called tinnitus. I never thought it would happen to me.”
"I felt scared. I felt alone, and I was definitely in denial about what was happening. I wasn't facing up to my fears." He pauses for a second, looks away and then continues. "I thought everything would return to normal. It didn't. I'd read about the condition known as tinnitus. I never thought it would happen to me."
"I looked 'tinnitus' up on the internet. There are a lot of tips on how to manage it. None of these seemed to work for me. It didn't help that I was not speaking to anyone about it. It meant that I worried about it more."
“A catalyst for me to take action.”
"I did further internet research. I began to notice many tinnitus and hearing loss communities through social media. A lot of members are sharing their stories of struggle. Asking for help is the norm. To see this activity online was the catalyst for me to take action. I realised I was not alone and many people were suffering from tinnitus, like myself."
"It was not going to go away. So, finally, I went to my local GP. He was helpful and arranged an appointment, for me, with the Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) hospital as a priority."
The diagnosis detected a perforated eardrum which was the cause of the tinnitus. The solution? A Myringoplasty (an operation to repair the perforation). The recent operation has been a success. The surgeon restored his hearing. The tinnitus is now infrequent.
“A sound that will not go away.”
Nathan explains his reason for wanting to share his story.
"Unless you've experienced tinnitus then it is difficult to empathise. It is a horrendous experience. A constant ringing sound in my ears. A sound that will not go away."
"There are stories of people who take their lives due to tinnitus. The message from relatives of the victims and the authorities is unequivocal. 'Don't suffer in silence.'
"I want to encourage more people to talk about their tinnitus. I have a good, long-standing friend who is a DJ. Only recently, did I speak to him about this."
"Much to my surprise, he disclosed that he'd had tinnitus for years. It's been an unexpected bonus to be able to talk about our tinnitus experiences. We share similar stories and themes."
"Please don't do what I did and bottle things up. If your tinnitus is affecting your quality of life and your mental health, talk to someone about it."
“Using earplugs needs to be more widespread.”
"If my story helps one person to be more aware, then that's a great thing. We also need more campaigns and education awareness about noise exposure and protection. Using earplugs needs to be more widespread."
"I was foolish for not protecting my hearing enough."
"I look at myself, and I'm like, 'Why did I do that? What was I thinking?'" he says with a sigh. "How was I to know? I didn't know there would be repercussions of this magnitude."
"I have to consider myself fortunate. If I’d continued DJing, at that level, it’s probable that my hearing loss and tinnitus levels would be far worse now. Strangely, I've been lucky."
Taking greater precautions.
He now takes greater precautions with his hearing. "I always carry custom earplugs around with me. If an environment is particularly noisy, then I will put these to use."
"Let’s take music festivals and entertainment as an example. Yes, some festivals now offer protective earplugs. But, then you could go on holiday abroad. A DJ could be playing and the noise levels, unbeknown to you, can be above an acceptable noise threshold," he says. "It’s a dangerous state of affairs when we are oblivious to it as consumers."
“Society does not seem to act.”
"There are countless other stories with similarities to mine. People are unaware of the dangers of noise exposure until it is too late. You look at the social media groups for hearing loss and tinnitus sufferers. The forums are rampant with stories about noise exposure. Society does not seem to act."
A cause close to his heart and an overriding message.
There’s a passion and earnestness in Nathan's voice as we close the interview. It's a cause which is close to his heart. It's a story he was keen to share. The journey he's faced is one I would describe as a roller-coaster of emotions. There is a light at the end of his tunnel.
Nathan continues to DJ now and again. He continues to go to gigs using ear protection.
Not everyone is as fortunate. The tinnitus continues to torment. The tinnitus becomes insufferable. Reach out. Talk to someone. If anything, Nathan's story demonstrates the overriding message. Please do not suffer in silence. You are not alone.
For information, research updates and all the ways to find help & support please go to www.tinnitus.org.uk - 'You're Not Alone.'
What does tinnitus sound like?
Here is a video clip which demonstrates the sounds of tinnitus.
This article has stressed the importance of wearing earplugs. There are many brands on the market.
Following research, I am recommending the Eargasm High Fidelity Earplugs to readers. There are 5 key reasons for my recommendation, notably:-
Affordability: For a high-end product they are not overly expensive. These earplugs are also re-usable, which helps make the cost better value if you are a regular concert-goer, for example.
Ear protection whilst maintaining sound quality: These earplugs preserve sound quality while attenuating noise up to 21 decibels (NRR 16 dB.) This means that noise is kept to a minimum, but you can still hear people talking and hear music with clarity. Music or voices won’t be muffled.
Endorsements: They are trusted by major music festivals.
Handiness: They have a handy carry case which goes on a keychain. You are less likely to forget them if they are attached to your keys.
Size: Every order comes with the two shell sizes of ‘normal’ and ‘large.’ The likelihood is that they will fit the majority of ears. Should you have smaller ears, Eargasm also sell Smaller Ears Earplugs.
If you like this article, you might like... Ten Years On - The Silver Linings. An emotional true story about sudden hearing loss, tinnitus and the journey back.
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