Too Close For Comfort by Peter Jones

Child and headphonesI love my job. Well, it’s more than that really. Just think for a moment….what do you like to do at the weekends to relax. It could be walking, photography, sport, cooking…there are any number of hobbies or pastimes that really make you happy and content. For me, helping to care for people’s hearing is what I was put on this earth to do. It’s my hobby that leaves me totally fulfilled at the end of the week. I know how lucky I am to have a hobby that I can indulge in every day.

However, there was a particular incident that really did stop me in my tracks and make me think.

I like music and I like to listen to live music. At recent concerts I’d noticed that I was getting a low level tinnitus on leaving the venue and moving on into a quieter environment. I kept saying to myself  ‘you’ll need to get some hearing protection sorted out’, but like everyone else, I’d forget about it until the next time I went to a gig and the same thing would happen.

audience at rock concertThe incident that tipped me over the edge occurred a couple of months ago. I arrived early and found the venue relatively empty. Great, I thought, a spot near the front to get a superb view of the band. What I didn’t do was take into consideration how much closer I would be to the PA speakers and in turn the intensity of sound that my ears were subjected to.

As the night went on the band started to sound less in tune, the instruments and vocals had an edge to them and eventually all I could hear was distortion. At the end of the gig I left the hall and that’s when the severity of what happened hit me.

I’d like to be clear that there is no exaggeration in what follows. I walked onto a busy street in the heart of the city, it was full of traffic but I couldn’t hear the noise of a single engine. It didn’t make sense. My head was so full of sound. A high pitched whistle, screeching car brakes, a buzzing, distorted, static noise and myriad of other noises I couldn’t even describe. There was a cacophony of noise inside my head.

while male holding ear in painI walked with the family and they were talking to me, their lips moved but I couldn’t hear a thing. I was scared. My thoughts turned to, how would I do the job I love with all this noise going on in my head? I knew that I’d damaged my hearing. I didn’t know if it was permanent or temporary.

There was a small improvement in the following two hours but nothing of significance. Falling asleep that night took some time and was a thoroughly unpleasant experience.

Thankfully, over the course of two days the noises subsided and my hearing returned to its usual level. Has there been any long term damage?  Possibly!  I’m definitely getting bouts of short lived, passing tinnitus more frequently than I used to. So in future, I’m going to take better care of my hearing.

white ear with black ear plug insideThe first thing I did was to get some impressions of my ears taken so that I could get a set of custom made hearing protection. I’ve provided countless sets of these for clients in the past who’ve been through a similar experience to myself when exposed to loud noise. I ordered a set of high gloss black ear-moulds with a filter providing 17 decibels of attenuation (sound reduction).

I received them in time to try out at the next concert. Did they work? Absolutely! They were a total revelation. The music was clear, sharp, crisp and agile. Hi-fidelity, distortion-free sound and at comfortable sound-levels. I came out of the gig with a smile on my face and my hearing intact.

So take it from the horses’mouth. Custom made hearing protection will make a real difference to your listening experience and pleasure. I’m going to keep wearing mine to ensure that I maintain my healthy hearing for many years to come. We should all be doing the same.

smiley face scribble with 2 black ear plugs

Peter Jones AudiologistThis guest blog article was written by Peter Jones co-director of Hearing Matters, who have a number of centres based around Manchester and Cheshire that deal with all aspects of good hearing care. Hearing Matters are a team of fully qualified clinical audiologists and hearing aid dispensers. Peter’s other articles can be viewed on www.hearingmatters.co.uk

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