How DJs & Music Producers Survive The Constant Ringing in their Ears

How DJs & Music Producers Survive The Constant Ringing in their Ears

Since April 2016, I’ve been holding a bit of a secret from my online readers. 

 
I was worried about what it would mean for my Producing & DJing career. 
 
I have tinnitus. 
 
Tinnitus is a constant ringing in your ears, usually at a high frequency, but can can also sound like static or scratching.
 
It is constant & if you don’t get your emotions under control, can be incredibly stressful & terrifying. 
 
If you don’t have these symptoms, count your lucky stars! Keep reading to learn how to protect your ears, so you never have to suffer through this. 
 
 
My Story
 
Mine started after an Iggy Pop concert, which left my ears both ringing and feeling stuffed. I hoped that is would go away like so many other situations, but this felt different. 
 
In the beginning, many people can’t sleep at all because of how loud the sound is when their ear hits the pillow. Many claim not being able to get more than 2 hours of sleep a night for the first 2-4 months. 
 
For some, this can lead to suicidal thoughts. I am a pretty optimistic person, but there was a day or 2 that I found my condition so unbearable & panic inducing that is actually ran through my head. 
 
 
My thoughts immediately went to my producing and djing career.
 
As a strange time of extreme highs & lows, I was suffering privately from this ringing as my EP reached number one on the Beatport minimal releases charts for 5 days straight. This is the first number 1 I’ve had, but I was miserable. Talk about mixed emotions! I didn’t really have the time to enjoy the moment & I thought this might be the end of it all. 
 
 
I started reading forums to try to find a solution. ANY solution to cope with this. Sadly most of them are just people saying “this sucks & you’ll have it forever because there is no cure”. 
 
I kept searching. 
 
During this time my stress level was building up because I had just agreed to mix an album & I had my monthly DJ residency coming up. 
 
 
 
Distracting myself
 
So one of the first things I tried to do was to distract myself from this constant sound that insisted on my attention 24/7. I tied watching TV, but the ringing would not be ignored and was louder than my distractions. I am a person who likes things at a low volume, so just cranking things up to mask the ringing caused even more panic. Although distraction & keeping busy are incredibly important in dealing with this, early on you seems to be lucky to get a full minute where you momentarily forget you have this massive issue. 
 
 
 
Cleaning the slate
 
As a way to try to relieve some of the stress, I blasted out several emails & made a few calls cancelling all DJ gigs & all music production responsibilities. What I couldn’t cancel, was a the 30 Day Master Course I had launched which required me to listen to a LOT of music in different stages of completion. Everyday, my students had homework they needed to send in & I needed to listen & respond. 
 
I had to be VERY careful with my ears. Each day felt like I was assaulting my ears more & more, but I had to carry on. I was committed to each and every student of mine. 
 
 
 
Light at the end of the tunnel
 
As I continued looking for people who had something positive to say about tinnitus, I started coming across some very useful information. I also had a close friend who had been where I was at, who was able to keep me sane on some really rough days. 
 
I started finding some quality information about ways to not only cope, but also ways turn the volume down on the constant ringing. It turns out that stress, salt & alcohol make the sound spike up in volume. Sometimes 5 times louder or more & these spikes can last anywhere from 1 to 3 days. 
 
 
 
What you’ll need if you have Tinnitus
 
Ear Plugs:
Protecting your ears form further damage is absolutely essential. I recommend you go to an Audiologist & get custom molds made specifically for your ears. It’ll cost you around $150. I paid more for extra filters. -19db & -26db (which I use 99% of the time). I keep these with me at all times when I’m out. Concerts, sporting events & restaurants can all be pretty loud, so it’s best to always be ready. Custom plugs are different than cheap spongey plugs in that you can still hear full frequency of sounds, just at a lower volume instead of everything you hear being muffled. 
 
If you live in or near Denver, I recommend taking to Guy Weyer at Hear-Mobile.com. He came right to my house & made the process quick & painless, as well as giving some great information & advice. 
 
Massage:
Massage has become an incredibly important thing to reduce my stress levels & to relax tightened muscles. It’s amazing how a couple sessions a month can really help reduce not only the volume of tinnitus, but your stress level overall. I go to Lodo Massage and Amanda Reed has been amazing. 
 
Yoga:
I do about 10 minutes a day of light yoga & stretching. Not only does this help with tinnitus, but also sets me up for a more calm and productive day. 
 
Reading:
The book that has helped me the most in Tinnitus: From tyrant to friend. You wouldn’t expect much judging by the book cover, by the author takes you through his journey with Tinnitus. He had it incredibly bad but was able to cure himself completely. You don’t hear many empowering stories like this, so you have to be selective with what you read or you can end up even more depressed. 
 
Supplements:
There are many snake salesmen offering a supplemental cure. Don’t believe any of that hype. That said, B vitamin, Magnesium & Calcium have been known to help quite a bit over time. I take all 3 daily while trying my best to stay away from salt, sugar & alcohol. Of course I cheat sometimes, as these things don’t cause further damage, it just makes what you already have more noticeable. 
 
Meditation:
I’ve been into meditation for quite a while but got a bit lazy with it. I’ve not gotten back into doing it regularly, If you have an android or iPhone the Calm app is free & really excellent for many types of meditation & calming background sounds.
 
Masking:
There are several ways to mask the ringing sound in your head with different forms of noise using the White Noise app. I tend to prefer sounds of nature, waterfalls, rain, waves etc. I typically will find a a target=”_blank”>10 hour video of rain on youtube. I’ll turn it up until I feel some relief but I’ll slowly try to bring the volume down letting the ringing become just slightly louder. My goal is to get used to the ringing instead of always trying to avoid it. The saying “what you resist, persists” is very true when it comes to tinnitus, but sometimes the goal is to just reduce stress. That should be your first goal & habituation 2nd. 
 
DB monitor app:
I use an app called Decibel 10th which will tell my how loud in dbs an environment is. If it’s over 85db, I will typically put on my ear plugs. 
The following chart tells you how long your ears can typically handle exposure before risking hearing damage. 
85db – 8 hours
88db – 4 hours
91db – 2 hours
94db – 1 hour
97db – 30 minutes
100db – 15 minutes (average loud club or concert volume)
103db – 7.5 minutes
from here every 3dbs can damage your ears in half the time as the previous
 
 
 
Other things I haven’t yet tried:
 
Acupuncture
Cranial Sacral Therapy
Tae Kwon Do
 
 
Are you screwed if you are a musician, DJ or producer?
 
This is one of the most stress inducing questions I had to ask myself when I got this. “Am I fucked?” “Do I have to give this all up?”. 
 
The answer is no. 
 
Although you may need to take a break to get your stress levels under control, it will ease up on you if you can keep your nervous system out of fight or flight mode. Tinnitus & your nervous system are so interrelated that it’s literally like a volume knob on the ringing. 
 
In most cases, you’ll need to produce at lower volumes & take breaks more often. To compensate for my need to test the low end at louder volumes, I got something called a SubPac which I put on my chair & it vibrates my body in a way that feels like being at a club. I can keep my headphones low & still feel exactly what is happening in the lower frequencies. Highly recommended. 
 
There are many many musicians & DJ’s that suffer from Tinnitus & are still able to keep doing what they love. Many use in ear monitors, I just wear my ear plugs under my headphones when DJing & keep things low when producing only raising the volume for very short periods to test the mix. 
 
Here are just some musicians that have it:
 
Bono & the Edge – U2
Chris Martin – Coldplay
Sting
Danny Elfman
Phil Collins
Thom Yorke – Radiohead
Pete Townsend – The Who
Will.I.Am – Black Eyed Peas
Bob Mould – Sugar/Husker Du
Barbara Streisand 
Lars Ulrich – Metallica drummer
Noel Gallagher – Oasis
Kevin Shields – My Bloody Valentine
Ozzy Osbourne
Huey Lewis
Eric Clapton
(and the list goes on and on)
 
DJs
Jody Wisternoff (way out west)
Carl Craig
Danny Tenaglia
Roger Sanchez
Dubfire
Moby
Smokin Jo
Tom Stephan 
Jon Carter
Many more musicians & DJs are certain to have ear issues & ringing, but just don’t want to share it publicly. 
 
 
If you are a musician, DJ or producer & have developed a never-ending ringing in your ear, breath.
 
It isn’t fun, but your life is NOT over. You WILL be able to continue. You’ll just need to make some adjustments (and let’s face it, the adjustments are probably going to help contribute to your health and longevity as well). 
 
Good luck friends & keep those ears safe. 
 
Jason
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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