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Eloise Garland

Dealing With Tinnitus in Music

November 10, 2010 at 8:43 PM

 Tinnitus is quite a common condition, especially in adults. However, it is usually quite mild and doesn't affect the people with it. It is less common in people of my age, however, if children suffer from it, they usually grow out of it during their teens. This seems not to be the case for me and it has become increasingly frustrating over the past year or so. 

Tinnitus is a ringing, buzzing, humming, squeaking, drumming or a range of many sounds in the ear. It can be in one ear, both ears, or the person may not be able to pin-point where they hear the sound. It can be constant or come in just short bursts every so often. 

My tinnitus is generally constant. By that, I mean it is there every day in my right ear as a high pitched squeak that never goes away. But that isn't the type that annoys me - I get a sort of low drum beat in my left ear which is triggered by men's voices or low women's voices, lower notes in songs or pieces of music or on instruments, vehicle vibrations, the TV and radio... the list goes on. 

As you can imagine, this poses a problem for me when it comes to creating music. Luckily as the violin goes no lower than middle G, it doesn't start my tinnitus off. But if I play in an orchestra where the cellos and other low pitched instruments are all to my left, I cannot concentrate on anything. So, a few months ago, I decided to do something about it! 

I approached my GP with my problem who then referred me to the ENT clinic at the local hospital. I've had hearing tests done, and tests for my inner ear (which were about migraines I get) and all came back okay. Everything seems to be fine... on the outside. 

I went to a tinnitus therapist last month, who gave me special CD's to listen to to 'train my ear', and she talked to me about the problems that come along with it. I also managed to pin-point when my tinnitus first started - when I was about 8 years old, and that incidentally is the same time I started becoming involved with music. She said it was very common for musicians to have tinnitus because their ear has to be trained to listen to pitches right down to the finest detail, which makes everything so much more sensitised. The good thing is she understands what tinnitus is like because she also has it!

I will be going back to see her around Christmas. Unfortunately the CD's she gave me to listen to have not helped much, but I will be discussing further action next time with her. The trying to deal with tinnitus during my music is frustrating and pushes me to the point of tears almost every day, but it will never ever stop me. And my question today is: Does anyone else suffer from tinnitus too? 

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on November 11, 2010 at 11:38 PM


Seems to me that when someone is exposed to a big noise, it can start such a inner ear buzz... Like when the speakers are too loud in a show or night club etc.  (Am I right on this?)

Violin is also a big noise...  I don't have chronic tinnitus but I do sometimes have a temporary one if I play something ff for a long time.  

And is tinnitus related with hearing loss?

Yours is chronic (always or often there?)  I didn't know that musicians had them that often...

Good luck!  Sorry to hear about your frustration... I think you have the good way of thinking: will push you to play even more to not surrend to the problems!  (In the end, it might do something special contrarely to those who never were challenged)  All the best


From Janis Cortese
Posted on November 12, 2010 at 2:53 AM

Honestly, earplugs are not a bad idea for musicians ...

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on November 12, 2010 at 8:08 AM

I suffer from migraines, too.  Please tell me about the inner ear problem.  I suspect that the inner ear is responsible, in part, for my dizzy spells, too.

From Eloise Garland
Posted on November 12, 2010 at 9:19 AM

Anne-Marie, temporary tinitus is caused by loud noises often, yes. It usually happens after being to loud concerts to everyone and it is a normal ear thing to do. Tinitus can be linked to hearing loss and lots of people who are hard of hearing experience tinnitus.

Mine probably won't go away as such. I have to start the long journey to dealing with the problem my re-training my mind so I don't feel like I have to listen to it anymore.

Janis, I wish I could use ear-plugs! The hospital has strictly told me not to as my ears will become far more sensitive and go 'looking' for more sound, which will end up in my tinnitus becoming worse. As mine isn't caused by loud sounds at all (I've never really experienced tinnitus as a result of loud speakers etc) then there isn't much that earplugs will help with. It would only cause it to worsen.


From Eloise Garland
Posted on November 12, 2010 at 9:25 AM


My migranes and dizzy-spells were caused if I tilted my head to certain angles or lay in certain positions. They worsen when I am stressed and the dizzy spells can last for a few minutes or over an hour.

There are two types of migrane I get - a visual one which ended up with my eyesight going funy, sickness and then the worst headache imaginable which I would then have to sleep off. The dizzy ones were basically dizzy spells with a headache and blurred vision.

Because of these, the doctors in hospital wanted to check whether it was caused by my inner ear having an inbalance. I had an MRI scan to see if there was a physical change and then tests such as tilting my head back and siting forward. My eyes were traced during all of the tests to see if the inner ear was the cause of the problem.

After al the tests came back giving me the all-clear, they told me it must be my migraines taking a new form.

Good luck to you - I hope your problems are sorted as quickly and efficiently as mine have been! 

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on November 12, 2010 at 11:09 AM

Eloise, my migraines (technically "headaches of mixed origin") are generally preceded by severe sleepiness (I can fall asleep while trying to put a spoon with food on it into my mouth) and severe difficulty breathing (I have asthma).  The headache pain is ungodly.  I usually sleep for about two days, and that is the only relief I can get from the pain.  I've had another test (VENG?) similar to yours with similar results.  Stretching my neck back in certain ways can bring on dizzy spells so severe that I can't even walk from one room of my home to another room.  Sometimes the dizzy spells lead to fainting or falling down.  This can be scary.  The stiffness of my neck muscles is due in part to playing the violin and having a very long neck.  I recently had the shoulder rest and chinrest on my violin changed to give more height so that I don't have to clamp down with my neck and jaw.  The neck and jaw pain are related to TMJ and myofacial pain, which can be severe and can progress to a "headache of mixed origin."  I've started doing gentle neck stretching exercises after playing my violin or viola and at some other time of day.  Once a headache starts, nothing can stop it.  I've tried many medications to no avail.  The only thing that has helped me is prevention, which I've done by giving up chocolate and caffeine.  You know that the pain must be really horrible for me to give up chocolate.  Have you tried these dietary changes or stretching your neck after playing?

I have developed tinnitus as a normal part of aging.  I'm generally able to tune it out, but I don't know how I do it..

I suppose I've told you more about my medical problems than you want to hear.


From Vivian Hsu
Posted on November 13, 2010 at 1:40 AM

Hi Eloise:

In answer to your question, I do have tinnitus too. It's not constant, but it is frequent and usually spontaneous. I've had it as long as I can remember, and it manifests as a high pitched whine in my ear that might last a few minutes at a time. I just ignore it. At times, I also get what some call "pulsatile tinnitus", which is when I can hear my the whooshing of blood (or I suppose, my heartbeat) through my blood vessels.

Incidentally, I used to get frequent migraines as a teenager. They rarely occur now, but I do seem to be very sensitive to loud or harsh sounds. My sister and my husband have, independently of each other, remarked how I tend to avoid those sounds, which can make me a bit headachy, but not to the extent of a true migraine.


From Vivian Hsu
Posted on November 13, 2010 at 2:03 AM

Eloise, I also meant to add my sympathies... I know it's frustrating to have to manage tinnitus when you're playing and practicing. I sometimes get a rattling in my ear when I'm in a room with several squeaky E strings going at the same time. When this happens, it's impossible to hear correctly, and it's really uncomfortable. Luckily for me, it doesn't happen often, and my tinnitus problems are not nearly as severe as yours.

Good luck on working out these tinnitus problems, and please update us on your progress.


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on November 13, 2010 at 3:23 AM

Hi, thanks for the info... At least, yours maybe won,t bring ear loss since it's chronicle?  I've found that article

It's about the tinnitus cause and it's not in the ear...  It's brain cells.

Good luck in finding a solution.


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