What is tinnitus?
The music is blaring. You can feel its beat coursing through your body. The adrenaline is pumping and you are screaming and dancing to the music along with the thousands in the crowd. You leave the concert and you still hear the pounding music.
A couple of hours later, you lie down to sleep and your ears are still ringing from the concert. You know it is because the music was so loud, and expect the ringing to have stopped by the next day.
What you maybe do not realise is that the ringing in your ears is temporary (for the time being) tinnitus, and that you have damaged some of the delicate structures in your ears, which can potentially lead to hearing loss.
So what is tinnitus?
Sometimes we hear sounds which aren’t actually present. This may be a humming, buzzing, whistling or ringing sound, or even music which you can hear that has no source. Sound Relief Hearing Centre provides sound samples of tinnitus, to help identify the condition.
Often these sounds are an indication of an underlying condition, which can range from too much earwax, high blood pressure, or commonly, prolonged exposure to loud noises.
Why would I get tinnitus after a concert?
Although the exact mechanism behind tinnitus has still not been fully understood, it is generally known that loud noises affect and damage the tiny hair cells which line your inner ear. The cells are responsible for transmitting sound waves to the nerve cells in your brain. However, if the brain does not receive the signals it expects, it begins creating the phantom sounds we hear as tinnitus.
If we are frequent concert-goers, often exposing our ears to loud noises, this damages these cells a little bit each time. The more and more damaged they become, the more prone you are to long-term tinnitus and hearing problems.
Additionally, earwax is your body’s natural way of protecting your ears, so if you are frequently being exposed to loud noises, it is likely that you will start producing more earwax. A build-up of earwax can result in muffled and ringing sounds in your ears.
How long will it last
Initially, you may experience tinnitus for only a couple of hours after a concert. However, the more regularly you go to concerts, the more likely it is that the after-effects will become more prolonged. Eventually, you may find that tinnitus is permanent, following you everywhere, throughout the day and night. This is often a precursor to hearing problems, particularly deafness.
What can I do to prevent tinnitus after a concert?
It is a lot easier to prevent tinnitus than it is to cure it, so taking simple steps now could save you a lot of trouble later. Mostly, a little common sense and care for your ears is all that you need to keep them tinnitus-free.
1. Don’t stand to near the stage or speakers – logically, this is where the music is loudest and likely to do the most damage. Even if you are standing a long way from the speakers, the nature of concerts is such that the music more than amply fills the hall, so taking a step back is often a good idea.
2. Wear earplugs – a lot of people ridicule the idea of wearing earplugs as it detracts from the whole experience. However, many people, musicians included, regret their decision to not wear them once the onset of tinnitus plagues their lives. Chris Martin has found that ‘since I started protecting my ears it [tinnitus] hasn’t got any worse (touch wood)…we always use moulded filter plugs, or in-ear monitors, to try to protect our ears.’
And what about if I already have ringing in my ears?
When your ears are ringing, often the only thing you can concentrate on is trying to get rid of the irritating noise, and when shaking your head, rubbing your ears and swallowing frantically as you try to clear your head has no effect, it can be the most frustrating annoyance. There are some tips and tricks that people try, which may work in easing symptoms:
1. Low level white noise – the key here is in the words ‘low level’. You don’t want to blast noise so loudly that you can’t hear the tinnitus but at the same time are doing more damage to your ears, as this will only make the condition worse. Instead, you want some quiet white noise (a steady unobtrusive sound) or music which helps to mask the ringing sounds, so that you can concentrate, but simultaneously give your ears the chance to recover.
2. Avoid caffeine and alcohol – though the exact reason why alcohol and caffeine can worsen tinnitus symptoms is unclear, a distinct link has been noted on several occasions. It is thought that as these cause fluctuations in blood pressure, this can put extra stress and pressure on the ear, prolonging or worsening symptoms.
3. Ginkgo biloba – this is an ancient herb, one of the oldest known to man, and has a traditional use in improving symptoms of tinnitus, such as ringing in the ears. It helps to stabilise blood pressure and improve circulation, supporting the health of your inner ear. Fresh extracts of this herb are available in tincture form or in A.Vogel Ginkgoforce® Gingko biloba tablets.