If you’ve experienced ringing, whooshing, buzzing or other sounds in your ears after a show, party or rave, you’re not alone. In fact, tinnitus is a pretty prevalent condition in the music industry – it’s doubly common compared to industries in quieter settings.
So, it makes sense that music fans, who spend a fair proportion of their time in louder settings, may be more exposed to an increased risk of tinnitus, too.
From Belgium pop star Angèle to Bristol-based DJ and producer Eats Everything, to Will.i.am and Coldplay’s Chris Martin, we’ve rounded up some of the industry’s most vocal artists, DJs and producers – who have all opened up about their own experiences with tinnitus – to prove that it’s worth practicing safe listening, no matter where you are on your sonic safety journey.
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Belgian pop star Angèle’s tinnitus was brought on by a single exposure to a blisteringly loud sound through her in-ear monitor during a TV appearance. Since the experience, she’s had to learn to cope with what she describes as “a sort of white noise” that she hears constantly. She’s done her part to raise awareness about the condition, telling Brut: “We don’t hear much about it, when frankly tinnitus is something that can drive you crazy.”
Along with consulting hearing specialists to find ways to protect her hearing, she’s also used her artistry to process her emotions surrounding the experience – even releasing the track J’entends (I hear).
Sometimes, tinnitus can be accelerated by other factors, such as stress and infections and illnesses. That’s something Bristol-based DJ Eats Everything – AKA Dan Pearce – experienced back in 2004. He already suffered with tinnitus after years of DJing, but after he came down with laryngitis, he noticed the ringing in his ears worsening. “I was a recruitment consultant at the time,” he told DJ Broadcast. “I'd be on the phone and all of sudden I couldn't hear what the person was saying, my ears would be ringing uncontrollably. I'd have to take time off work.”
Now, he’s evangelical about protecting his ears, wearing moulded earplugs in any situation where he might be exposed to loud noise. “My ears are essentially my tools and I should be more careful with them,” he later told fans in a Facebook post.
Producer, musician and The Voice judge WILL.I.AM has also opened up about his lengthy battle with tinnitus, and hearing a beeping sound “all day, every day”. He told Metro that consulted hearing experts in 2007, 2013 and 2019 to track his hearing, giving him unique insights into the way noise-induced hearing damage is affecting his ears – and the increasing need for hearing protection when he’s in loud places. “I’m 43. When I went to the doctor and got an ear test, they said, “Your ears are that of someone a lot older,” he added. “...it’s proper loss.’
Chris Martin, Coldplay
Though one of the most famous examples of musicians suffering the occupational hazard of tinnitus and hearing loss, Coldplay’s Chris Martin’s experience with tinnitus is maybe one of the most relatable experiences we’ve heard about, too.
He noticed a ringing in his ears as a teenager when listening to loud music, but didn’t pay much attention to the problem until years later, when his musical career took off.
Around a decade ago he revealed in an interview that he’d been struggling for a decade with the condition, which caused him splitting headaches. "Looking after your ears is unfortunately something you don't think about until there's a problem,” he told a reporter in one interview. “I wish I'd thought about it earlier."
But Martin’s story is also pretty motivating for anyone noticing early signs of hearing loss and tinnitus, adding “since I started protecting my ears, [my tinnitus] hasn’t got any worse – touch wood.” Martin says he took action by investing in hearing protection and wearing specially designed in-ear monitors when performing. And, though a doctor once warned that he might not perform again, decades later he continues to dominate stages worldwide.
Mike Spearman, Everything Everything
While sharing his experiences accessing Help Musicians’ Hearing Health Scheme, Everything Everything drummer Mike Spearman shared his own experiences with temporary hearing loss while touring, and the anxiousness this can cause. “Sometimes after gigs, I get a bit of tinnitus, ringing in the ears, for a short period of time,” he says. “But that can stay forever, which is worrying – and it worries me and a lot of musicians I know.”
Above, you can watch Mike getting his hearing checked and creating custom earplug moulds through the Hearing Health scheme.
Tinnitus is ‘rife’ in the DJ field, according to Dutch DJ and producer Laidback Luke (AKA Roger Sanchez). In an interview with THUMP he described how he’s noticed that “a lot of people have tinnitus and they haven't even identified it. They're just so accustomed to their ears ringing.” His own sonic safety journey began over 20 years ago, when he noticed mild tinnitus, and that his ears were becoming less sensitive to sound. These days he uses in-ear monitors for his DJ sets, which he describes as a ‘revelation’ when it comes to protecting his hearing.
Sanchez isn’t alone in his concern about the prevalence of tinnitus in the music industry. Debi Ghose (a London-based club and radio DJ who goes by DENONAIR) has also voiced her frustrations, telling Resident Advisor: “What really bothers me is the inevitability aspect…like, 'Oh yeah, everyone has tinnitus.” Ghose would prefer that the industry saw tinnitus as an avoidable condition, adding: "I really, really don't want to have it.”
Ghose experienced a severe bout of tinnitus after one of her earplugs fell out at a music festival. Booked to play the same festival the same weekend, she struggled through her set despite “ a searing pain, like white-hot painful” in her right ear. She suffered from tinnitus and mental health problems for months afterwards, but consulted a GP for a hearing test and received the good news that she hadn’t suffered permanent hearing loss – another testament to the benefits of seeing a medical professional as soon as you’ve got concerns about your ears.