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How do musicians deal with the fact that they are especially prone to getting tinnitus? Is there enough awareness on this? These are some of the questions addressed in this episode.

Tinnitus Talk spoke with CJ Wildheart, professional rock musician with tinnitus, and guitarist for The Wildhearts. He talks candidly about how live and loud playing for many years caused his tinnitus, how this has affected his musical career, and the care he now takes to protect his ears.

We were lucky to have Eddie Clarke (known as Ed209 on the Tinnitus Talk support forum) arrange and conduct the interview with CJ. Ed is himself a professional music teacher, and in the second half of this episode, our podcast host Sean spoke with him about his personal experiences, musicians and tinnitus, and questions around noise protection.

Skip to: 00:00 Introducing CJ Wildheart and his tinnitus experience.

Skip to: 04:05 Coping, self-medication and proper hearing protection.

It was intense, it would keep me up, but … I play in a rock and roll band, so I could self-medicate.

Skip to: 06:14 Tinnitus awareness in the music industry and related technological trends.

You know that whole thing of all men play on 10, well no they don’t, all men play on about 0.5 now.

Skip to: 11:06 Lifestyle changes and protecting his ears.

Skip to: 18:35 Lemmy from Motörhead – his ear problems and playing style.

Skip to: 20:35 The Wildhearts’ new album and trends in studio recording.

The whole recording process has changed. […] Those ridiculous volumes, that doesn’t happen anymore.

Skip to: 25:00 Start of part II: Ed’s experience with music, tinnitus onset and worsening.

Skip to: 31:29 The guilt factor of hurting your ears.

It’s an intense feeling for some people, the anxiety and guilt that they feel for causing that on themselves.

Skip to: 35:07 Tinnitus loudness versus severity versus degree of hearing loss.

Skip to: 39:08 Noise exposure: How loud is too loud?

There’s gonna be noises in your life, you can’t be afraid of every loud sound out there, but there’s a huge difference between a slamming door or a toilet seat falling down and going to a club or a concert; they’re worlds apart.

Skip to: 43:46 Noise levels at concerts and the increasing prevalence of tinnitus.

Skip to: 48:41 Prevalence and awareness of tinnitus among musicians.

Skip to: 56:12 Reflections on the CJ interview.

Discuss this episode on the Tinnitus Talk Forum, or submit a reply below.

Comments (7)
  1. I deal with hearing loss loss, and take earplug precautions but not with the ear that has severe hearing loss.

    Should I protect the ear that has more severe hearing loss? I haven’t before because I need as much sound coming in as I can get from the left ear.

    • That’s a bit of a conundrum, but I would. I think it’s a good idea to protect whatever hearing you have left.

    • I think that the ear needs to know that it’s still needed and active, so it needs to hear any noise – anything. No loud noises, but the brain needs to know that the ear is still in use and not shut it down…
      Anyway, best thing to do is – consult with a doctor.

  2. I really enjoyed listening to your interview. I am a musician and I developed tinnitus in my left ear 3 years ago after listening to my music too loud! I am now really careful and keep all my volumes right down.

    I hope your tinnitus eases.
    Kind wishes

  3. From my own research due to my chronic tinnitus situation I can affirm that loud continuous noise is the cause of my tinnitus, beginning in the late 60s. From then onward, I agree with some latest testing that the problem becomes a permanent brain dysfunction / impairment via the ears, whereas silence is not even a viable solution.

  4. I get occasional short-term “classic” tinnitus – just a whistle that lasts a couple of minutes.

    However I had a major hearing “nasty” three years ago. I had a 24 hour streaming cold, & lost my ability to hear bass notes – not good as I was playing bass with a group in a show that day. Then I had very odd hearing problems – I went to a”klezmer” session with good musicians that I have played with for years… and it sounded as if everyone was badly out of tune, and the whole thing had been recorded & played back on the worst cassette recorder you ever heard, with 10% wow & flutter. I had to leave after two tunes…

    Anyone else had problems like this?

  5. I used to enjoy and love the silence…
    Now I have a problem falling asleep unless I listen to some background noise, any noise.
    Most often I choose to listen to audiobooks.

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