Black Eyed Peas star will.i.am says his long battle with tinnitus has left him reconciled to the prospect of losing his hearing later in life.
The singer, producer and rapper has lived with tinnitus for many years. In a new interview with the Sunday Times Magazine he says the condition can drive him to distraction and means he struggles to sit still or relax.
The LA born artist, who is currently appearing as a judge on ITV’s The Voice, also reveals tests have also shown his hearing is deteriorating. “It’s proper loss,” he explains.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus sufferers hear noises – such as ringing, buzzing or even music – that aren’t caused by an outside source. As the noise is not caused by an external source, it can’t be turned off or turned down. It can be constant or intermittent.
While many sufferers find it a minor annoyance, for others it be can a life-changing condition that leaves them struggling to sleep, concentrate and communicate.
What does this mean for singers?
Tinnitus is more common in people who have hearing loss. And one of the risk factors for hearing loss is repeated exposure to loud noises or – yes you guessed it – music.
Artists including Chris Martin, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck all struggle with tinnitus and all attribute it to years of listening to and playing loud music.
How loud is too loud?
According to the charity Action on Hearing Loss, listening to any sound at a volume of more than 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss and/or tinnitus. To put this into perspective, the music at some gigs and clubs can top 100 decibels – and that’s just for people listening in the audience, not singers on stage in close vicinity to instruments such as drums and guitars.
Hearing health and hearing loss
It’s crucial that singers don’t just focus on vocal health but pay attention to hearing health too. One important way to do this is to wear in ear monitors (IEMs) on stage. These enable you to receive a monitor mix directly to your ear drums, with the individual levels and volume adjusted to suit you.
As with most kit, there are many IEMs on the market. They fall into two categories: universal and custom-fit. Universal start at £90, and custom-fit, as the name suggests, are moulded to perfectly fit you. These start from £250.
Learn more about IEMs here
Things to remember about IEMs
- Your ears keep growing throughout your life, so you will have to get your IEMs redone throughout you career.
- Many IEM retailers offer discounts to music students so take measures at an early age to protect your hearing.
- Help Musicians UK, in partnership with Musicians Hearing Services and the Musicians’ Union, has created the Musicians Hearing Health Scheme. This gives all musicians affordable access to specialist hearing assessments and bespoke hearing protection.
Dates to remember
Tinnitus Week 2019 starts on February 4. There’ll be lots of information about hearing protection and support for those with hearing loss available on social media so check it out and share it with your followers.