We have all felt this at some point or another for a wide range of reasons. Mostly it goes something like this: you go to a great show or concert and it is one of your favorite bands or singer-songwriter, so you stand really close to the stage (and the speakers). After you come home, you have got a permanent buzz, a high pitched annoying little note playing in your ears, and it won’t go away. This is a direct result of having them blasted with loud music for hours. Your ears naturally react and you think you might have really done something bad to them. Then it happens. You go to bed finally and when you wake up the next day, the ringing is gone.
Isn’t it great when ears do their job so efficiently? Except, what happens when ears can’t anymore? Hearing loss is a natural part of our aging process. Like the rest of our bodies, ears get used and worn. It’s normal. Teeth do it as well, bones do it. So why shouldn’t ears? Ringing in the ears is referred to as Tinnitus, which is Latin for ringing. Some of the reasons for hearing loss increasing in our time is the industrial age. Lots of household machines, lots of cars with loud horns, motors, sirens, alarms. Cell phones with volume levels that are irregular, some people speak quietly and some shout on the other line.
There is also our choices for entertainment, loud shows, loud sports games. Not to mention the friends trying to speak to us above the noise at these events who end up shouting right into our ears. It’s a lot to handle. The movie theaters or our home theaters with surround sound to be able to hear the loud shootouts in action movies or the screeches in the horror movies we like so much. Then there is digital audio technology. Digital sound offers us a musical experience akin to sitting in a concert hall. Crisp, clean, pure sound of music. Is that really necessary? I don’t really listen to classical music like in a concert hall, I can afford to not hear every little noise that my idie-rock bands make with those instruments, but I want that luxury too. I buy the fancy headphones, the home studio speakers.
In the past few years I’ve noticed the ringing in my ears has increased, by a lot. I started listening to my music loudly in my enormous headphones when I was pretty young. My ipod is my best friend, I don’t go anywhere without it and I never listen to it quietly. I’m out and about, hoping on the bus, or walking somewhere surrounded by loud traffic. If I want to hear my music I need to be turning it up every now and then. Another thing that has been turned up is how often I feel like the wind is rattling in one of my ears, when it’s not in the other. Or how no matter how quiet it is, there is a lulling buzz permanently in my head now. Loud music is among the top reasons for young people to loose their hearing. It doesn’t seem like it at first. It didn’t for me. I was told often “I can hear your headphones, how loud do you need that thing?” I shrugged. Luckily I actually was able to notice it after a few years. I started to do something about the ringing. See, ears don’t regenerate very quickly at all. Once you’ve lost some of your hearing, it’s hardly ever that you can gain it back. So prevention becomes a priority.
It’s important to sensitize your ears. To go from “I can take this level of noise” to “Is this level of noise going to do damage?” Ears don’t lie, but we put them through a lot. They will tell you when you’re in danger of damaging your hearing. Tinnitus wouldn’t really be such a big deal for me if it didn’t directly jeopardize my ability to listen to new music or my favorite albums. It’s not worth loosing music, though. I want to be able to keep my hearing well into my old age.