If like me you spend much of your time talking and hanging out with musicians, then the topic of tinnitus is usually on the mind of someone you know. Tinnitus is a condition where the sufferer hears a persistent ringing in their ear, and is usually caused by overexposure to loud noises. So those that work mainly in live music and nightclubs are far more at risk than anyone else. Yet despite the awareness we already have when it comes to protecting your hearing, especially in nightlife circumstances, tinnitus has never really been seen as a major threat to a person's well-being. This is mainly because other conditions like deafness are usually seen as the far more serious outcome for those working in the music industry. Which is itself, most of the problem.
In most cases of deafening, the symptoms build up over a number of years. Victims can usually start to notice things like becoming hard of hearing early on in its development, which usually leads them to make better life choices to prevent the situation getting any worse. But tinnitus doesn't start off slow and build up into a full-blown attack. It is sudden and most sufferers will say that it just arrived one day and won't go away. Which is also another part of the problem. Unlike deafness where hearing aids are considered progress to a cure, there is no cure for tinnitus. And for some, the effects can be life-altering.
In November 2016, the news reported the very sudden death of Inspiral Carpets drummer Craig Gill, aged 44. At the time, it appeared to be suicide but without any apparent physical issues towards his health or personal situation, the coroner couldn't confirm whether or not Gill had taken his own life. It wasn't until his wife gave an extensive statement after a recent inquest that she came to the conclusion that his tinnitus was responsible.
After defining his 20-year tinnitus as "debilitating", she went on to explain that "his condition affected his day-to-day wellbeing and he suffered in silence with both sleep deprivation and anxiety".
Yet even after her statement was released, the coroner was still not satisfied that suicide was the reason for Craig Gill's death, as his condition hasn't official been recognised as a cause of self-harm. And it is this point that persuaded me to write this article.
While tinnitus may not be in itself a lethal condition, it is most certainly an nauseating one. Many of my friends who have it and told me stories which revolve around an inability to sleep because of the constant noise in their heads, it can trigger headaches or migraines, and even cause the sufferer to lose balance or feel dizzy when trying to walk. It can even amplify depression for those that already have it. Yet despite all this evidence to suggest that tinnitus is more than just a ringing sound in someone's head, as it stands, this is still how society sees it.
The wife of Craig Gill ended her statement with a call to those also suffering to not do in silence, and that is how I would like to end this article. There are dozens of charities out there who provide help and support for those suffering with tinnitus. The BTA (British Tinnitus Association) help sufferers in many ways, from managing their condition to cognitive therapy to helps the individual drown out the sound by redirecting their focus. While there isn't an out-and-out cure, there are ways that can help those in need to cope. So if you are one of those who suffer or think you might suffer, please speak to your doctor about ways that you can help manage your situation. And if you aren't suffering yet, invest in some earplugs and keep your hearing safe when heading out.