Tuesday

I am languishing in my sickbed, riddled with plague and reading about all this Tumblr stuff.

Maybe not plague. A cold.

I know that the ringing in my ears is louder when I’m sick, but it’s coupled with the sound of the water moving through the radiators and hot water pipes – a similar sound to the one I hear in my ears – which makes it all worse somehow. No amount of earplug-wearing will help when it’s a noise already in my head.

Coincidentally, I’m also reading about how places like restaurants are really loud. I’m constantly thinking about how loud places are and how it seems like everywhere has gotten louder but can’t really decided whether they really have become louder or I just notice more now that I try to avoid loud noises. Probably both.

Restaurants are so loud because architects don’t design them to be quiet. Much of this shift in design boils down to changing conceptions of what makes a space seem upscale or luxurious, as well as evolving trends in food service. Right now, high-end surfaces connote luxury, such as the slate and wood of restaurants including The Osprey in Brooklyn or Atomix in Manhattan.

This trend is not limited to New York. According to Architectural Digestmid-century modern and minimalism are both here to stay. That means sparse, modern decor; high, exposed ceilings; and almost no soft goods, such as curtains, upholstery, or carpets. These design features are a feast for the eyes, but a nightmare for the ears. No soft goods and tall ceilings mean nothing is absorbing sound energy, and a room full of hard surfaces serves as a big sonic mirror, reflecting sound around the room.The result is a loud space that renders speech unintelligible. Now that it’s so commonplace, the din of a loud restaurant is unavoidable. That’s bad for your health—and worse for the staff who works there. But it also degrades the thing that eating out is meant to culture: a shared social experience that rejuvenates, rather than harms, its participants.
And the Underground is SO loud. I mostly travel on the Northern line when I use the tube and the TRAINS are SO LOUD. If you want to talk to someone, you’d have to shout (on the other hand what are you doing, breaking the unwritten rule of not speaking on the tube). I always wonder about how loud people must have the volume for whatever they are listening to on their headphones. I think about how that kind of volume from headphones on my own ears would probably be worse for my tinnitus than the sound of the trains the music would be drowning out. At least I can wear earplugs on the train.

Tinnitus Awareness Week

Since it’s now about halfway through Tinnitus Awareness Week, I figure I should actually get around to saying something about it.

Some of you who know me in real life (and probably a few who only know me online) might be aware that I suffer from what I would call fairly mild tinnitus or that whenever I go to gigs or sing-a-long movies or anything potentially loud, I wear earplugs. My tinnitus is pretty much down to going to gigs and rocking out at the front and totally not looking after my hearing while I was at university. Looking back, I remember seeing Alec Empire at Reading when I was about 17 and being almost completely deaf for a little over an hour after leaving the tent he was performing in. Alec Empire was great and with all the excitement of seeing all the other bands I wanted to check out at the festival, I didn’t really give my hearing any real thought – other than it was a bit inconvenient that I couldn’t hear how much credit I had left on my mobile. I was young and invincible, right?

After that I went to other gigs. I remember marvelling that coming home after seeing Queens of the Stone age, my ears didn’t ring half so much as they did after I’d been to see Idlewild. Incidentally, that Idlewild gig left my ears ringing constantly for over a week. Again, I was young and invincible.

Until, after one gig I went to (and I don’t remember which one) the ringing didn’t go away. It just stuck about. Pretty quietly, but there.

Most of the time, I don’t notice it. I’m doing other things or listening to music and so long as my hearing hasn’t really been overstimulated during the day… I can go to bed and it’ll still be very quiet and I can just go to sleep like most people. Sometimes though, if I’ve been somewhere loud or right after doing the vacuuming, the ringing in my ears dials up to 11 and stops me from being able to get to sleep. Now, there are ways of dealing with it and I tend to turn the radio on very quietly and then my brain can latch on to that sound as something to pay attention to, instead of the riiiiiiing in my head (I find Ancient Faith radio or Classic FM to be pretty good for this).

The best thing is not to get to that stage in the first place and that’s why I now wear earplugs at gigs. Also, when I vacuum. It always feels like my hearing’s been pretty sharp anyway so I carry my earplugs everywhere and if I think something’s too loud, regardless of what it is? In they go. Best investment ever. I have custom earplugs which are moulded to fit my ears exactly and they are great. They live in a little purse in my handbag and I take them everywhere.

So. If you like going to gigs, wear earplugs. They don’t have to be the custom fancy pants expensive kind – for years I used to pop into Superdrug every so often and pick up a box of the foam kind. They don’t tone down the sound with the same kind of quality, but they still protect your ears and really, that’s the important part.

And finally, a word from Eddy Temple-Morris on Tinnitus, because he’s a boss and I got a discount on my earplugs thanks to him.

 

British Tinnitus Association