Tinnitus Treatments for the Rock Musician: How to Prevent or Control Tinnitus
Do Your Ears Ring All the Time? Welcome to the World of Tinnitus... Here Are Some Tips on How to Live with and Control Tinnitus
by Paul Diamond Blow
Tinnitus. It means your ears ring. All the time... it doesn't stop, it doesn't rest, it's always there, that cursed ringing in your ears. If you've ever been to a loud rock concert or a loud club and your ears rang like crazy for a day or two afterwards you know what tinnitus is, you've had a taste of it. Usually the ringing goes away after a few days, but if loud music or any other kind of loud noise is a part of your life chances are if you're not careful you could end up with tinnitus full time and the ringing in your ears never really goes away. I should know, I've got it myself and have had it for years...
I'm a rock musician, been playing guitar and singing in rock bands for over fifteen loud years. After about ten years of playing in rock bands, I noticed that my ears rang all the time. It was something I would usually only notice when lying in bed at night in a quiet room, quiet except for the faint high-pitched ringing in my head. It wasn't bad back then, nothing that really bothered me too much and I didn't pay it much mind. If I turned on the TV set at night I didn't really notice it. And so I kept rocking in bands with no ear protection -- big mistake!
It wasn't until about five years ago that the ringing in my ears started to really annoy me... I finally saw the ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctors and had hearing tests done and they confirmed that I had minor hearing loss in the upper frequencies, mostly in my left ear. My left ear is where I hear the tinnitus the most, actually. Supposedly, according to the doctors, when you have hearing loss in the high frequencies your brain makes up for that loss with tinnitus, which rings at about the same pitch of the frequencies you have hearing loss at. The doctors also said that there is NO CURE for tinnitus -- something I did not want to hear -- and one doctor said bluntly, "Learn to live with it!" Easy for him to say, he wasn't the one stressing at every little sound that jumped out at me and attacked my brain. When I complained to another doctor about the stress the hyperacusis was causing me during one more difficult bout with it, he actually suggested I wear ear muffs... in the summer!
I won't bore you, dear reader, any more with my story of being a rock musician with tinnitus. You're probably reading this because you too have tinnitus and it's driving you nuts, you want relief, you want answers, you want to know "HOW DO I STOP THE RINGING!!!" Without further ado, here is what I've tried myself -- here's what works for me and what hasn't worked for me:
1) Magnesium supplements: I first heard of magnesium as a supplement for tinnitus on the internet. It seems there was a two-month study where 300 military recruits were either given either a placebo or a magnesium supplement. At the end of the study, the group receiving the magnesium had much less hearing loss than the group receiving the placebo. It seems that magnesium actually protects the ears and can prevent hearing loss, and preventing more hearing loss is key to controlling tinnitus. I've been taking 750 milligrams of magnesium daily for the last year, ever since I read about the magnesium study, and am very happy to say that in that year the ringing in my ears -- while it hasn't gone away -- is LESS loud than it was a year ago, and even better I haven't experienced a bout with hyperacusis (the sensitivity to sounds) in at least a year. And yes, I've still been playing in a loud rock band (with ear protection) this whole time. If you've got tinnitus I very highly recommend taking at least 500 milligrams of magnesium daily, it really is the only supplement I can honestly say has helped me. Magnesium is something you should also take BEFORE you go to a loud concert or even immediately afterwards-- it will help protect your ears from damage.
2) Earplugs: If you are a musician playing in a band -- any kind of band, really -- or if loud noise is part of your life or job, wearing ear protection is key to preventing or controlling tinnitus. You've got to take care of your ears, prevent any further hearing loss, and ear plugs are the way to go for that. I now wear earplugs anytime I go out to see live music -- at least when the band is playing -- and wear ear plugs whenever my own band practices or plays live. The downside is that I can never actually hear what the music REALLY sounds like unfiltered, but earplugs mostly block out the loud high frequencies that do the most damage, and I highly recommend to any musician to wear ear protection, that is, if you don't want to end up like Pete Townsend (a tinnitus sufferer who was one of the first famous musicians to come out and talk about it openly) Even though I cannot hear exactly what the loud rock music sounds like, I am very happy to leave a band practice session or a live show without my ears ringing off the hook. I don't miss that at all.
3) Watch what you eat or drink!: Different foods or drinks can effect your tinnitus, at least temporarily. For example, salty foods make my ears ring louder for about an hour or so after I eat them. For some reason Top Ramen (which contains a lot of salt) always makes my ears ring louder after eating it. For some people caffeine or alcohol increase the volume of tinnitus temporarily. Be aware of what foods or drinks may increase the volume of your own tinnitus and avoid them, if you can. (I admit, I still do like an occasional bowl of Top Ramen, even if it does make my ears ring louder.)
Tinnitus treatments I've tried that have had no effect:
1) Ginkgo biloba: According to many sources on the internet, and even according to a pamphlet I got from my ENT doctor, Ginkgo is a herb that is supposed to help relive tinnitus. I tried Ginkgo myself for about six months (they say it takes at least a few months to take effect) but it was no help to me, sadly. Supposedly, though, it does help some people with their tinnitus. It's worth a try, anyway, as it's fairly cheap and available at most stores that sell herbal products.
2) Ring Stop (herbal product): I had seen this herbal product at Fred Meyer for a long time before my tinnitus got so bad I actually considered buying it. It's basically an herbal supplement containing herbs such as Calcarea carbonica, Cimicifuga racemose (Black Snake Root) , Carbo vegetabilis, Cinchona officinalis, and a bunch of other herbs I cannot pronounce. It's rather expensive for an over the counter product, but I did try Ring Stop for about four months with no positive results.
3) Hypnosis: Supposedly, hypnosis has helped many people with their tinnitus, as it is supposed to get your subconcious mind to ignore the ringing in your ears. I've never tried an actual hypnotist, but I did purchase a hypnosis CD made for tinnitus sufferers, which basically was a half-hour long relaxation hypnosis session which at the very end of the session the doctor would suggest that the tinnitus, ringing in the ears, and sensitivity to sound would fade away to nothing. To tell the truth, the CD was indeed very relaxing, I would almost always fall asleep while listening to it halfway through and would indeed feel good upon waking up, but it did not do anything for the tinnitus itself.
Other tinnitus "cures" I have not personally tried:
1) anti-anxiety meds: There are scores of tinnitus sufferers who claim that anti-anxiety drugs such as Xanax can dramatically reduce the "volume" of their tinnitus. This should be a very last resort, as these drugs are very addicting and expensive. I actually asked a doctor for a prescription to Xanax during one particularily bad bout with my tinnitus and he refused to give it to me. He's the one who suggested the ear muffs.
Page 2: Famous rock musicians with tinnitus