Tinnitus: An Introductory Guide To Protect Your Hearing

Tinnitus: An Introductory Guide To Protect Your Hearing
Imagine you’re seeing your favorite artist and he or she is absolutely killing it!

You step outside as the concert ends, and you realize there’s a slight ringing in your ears. You think it’ll go away, but after a few days nothing has changed…

Your ears are still ringing.

This condition is known as tinnitus, and it affects a large number of musicians.

As a producer, your ears are the most valuable pieces of equipment you have in the studio. They have the first and final say in every sound, sample, and recording you create, so taking care of them should be a priority!

But don’t worry. We wrote this article so that you have a better idea of how to protect your ears and make music safely.

In this guide we dive into tinnitus and go over the following:

    1. What is Tinnitus?

    1. Causes

    1. How to Prevent Tinnitus for Musicians

    1. Current Treatments

Let’s start with describing what people hear when they are affected by tinnitus.

1. What Is Tinnitus?

Simply put, tinnitus is the perception of sound when no actual sound is present.

In other words, It’s commonly described as a ringing, buzzing, hissing, or roar that seemingly comes from inside your ear, but is not a real sound coming from anywhere.

Tinnitus is ultimately a brain problem, because the way our brains interpret incoming sound is disrupted in some way.

Additionally, this means tinnitus is a very individualized condition, as anyone outside of your own brain can’t hear what you’re hearing.

There are two main types of tinnitus: temporary and chronic.

An example of temporary tinnitus would be a slight ringing in the ears after a particularly loud concert. In the case, the ringing would disappear over the course of a few days.

Chronic tinnitus, on the other hand, is a ringing coming from your ears that happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and never stops.

This can be annoying in many aspects of your daily life, ranging from making music to sleeping to even having a basic conversation with someone else.

The unfortunate part to all of this is that Tinnitus is actually more common than you think! In fact, according to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), tinnitus affects around 15% of the general population, and one of the most affected groups is musicians!

As a musician, you need to learn the causes in order to avoid them and protect your ears!

2. Causes

Your brain and how it perceives sound is a complex process. If damage occurs at any point while the sound travels to your brain, it could be life changing for a musician.

Sound is our brain’s interpretation of changes in air pressure around us. It’s your direct connection to the music you create and hear on a daily basis.

Therefore, not being able to hear certain frequencies in one ear or both will change the way you go about creating music. You’ll have to make choices and adapt in order to continue your path as a music producer.

Andrew Huang, a popular Youtube musician, talks about his experience with hearing loss and what he has to do on a daily basis to make up for it.

You can check it out here.


We can’t tell what exactly causes tinnitus, because everyone’s ears and brains are different. But here are some commonly reported causes of the condition.

    • Inner Ear Damage:

        • Most common cause:

        • Age related or noise induced (single traumatic event or prolonged exposure to high levels of sound)

    • Blockages or Obstructions:

        • Most treatable

        • Usually consists of wax build-up or congestion from ear infection and can be removed to return ear back to normal

    • Medicines:

        • Specific antibiotics or larges doses of aspirin can cause tinnitus

    • Severe Head or Neck Trauma:

        • Concussions, neck injuries, and even dental issues can damage to the area of the brain that processes sound

    • High Blood Pressure

        • Can be stress related which increases the symptoms

        • Caffeine or excessive alcohol use

    • Jaw Problems:

        • Injuries to the joints on either side of the your head and in front of your ears

Research is being done to see why these may lead to, cause, or make tinnitus worse for those who have it.

3. How to Prevent Tinnitus For Musicians

Whether you enjoy playing live settings or love producing in the comfort of your own home, knowing what to avoid in order to keep your ears healthy is key.

This is because hearing loss is associated with tinnitus, so it’s important to protect your ears in every way possible.

Prolonged exposure to loud noises, such as a live concert, can lead to this and cause tinnitus to flare up over time. But what can you do?

Use Of Hearing Protection At Live Shows

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the maximum exposure times without hearing protection are:


(Hair Dryer)
8 hours

(Propeller Airplane Cockpit)
4 hours

2 hours

1 hour

(Fire Alarm)
30 minutes

15 minutes

7.5 minutes

Live EDM shows go well above the standard ear-damaging level of 85 decibels, usually exceeding 110 decibels (on average).

If a motorcycle at 103 decibels can damage your hearing after just 7.5 minutes, it’s obvious that a 1.5 hour dubstep concert without ear plugs could lead to hearing loss.

So, to help protect your ears from damaging levels of noise, there are a few types of in-ear protection to take a look at, each with their own pros and cons.

First and foremost, there are foam earplugs. You can grab these at your local drugstore at a low cost, but most venues will have these for free. Just ask the bartender or someone who works at the venue.

cymatics-tinnitus-foam earplugs

The only problem with these is that they are designed to keep sound out and will muffle anything you’re trying to listen to. The sound experience is terrible, but it will get the job done if you simply need earplugs.

Filter ear plugs are the most commonly used ear plugs on the market. These plugs seal off the auditory canal, and the use of a filter system allows sound to come through. This way, you don’t feel cut off from the outside world.

cymatics-tinnitus-filter earplugs

Think of these as turning the volume down but still getting to hear the good stuff.

The last option is customized earplugs. These are the most costly, because they use a mold of your ear in order to fit perfectly and offer the greatest protection.

cymatics-tinnitus-custom earplugs

Unique to every individual, this type of ear plug is usually made through a hearing specialist or a company like ACS Custom Earphones.

Using these ear plugs or any others on the list may take some time to get used to, which is why it’s important to practice listening to music and playing live with them in.

Lowering the sound volume may feel unnatural at first, but your body will adapt. Not only will you naturally adjust to the lower volumes, but your pitch and perception of sound will also improve. This is because the ear tends to get worse after hearing at louder volumes.

Even so, you may still be a bit resistant to using these headphones, since a big reason concert goers attend a concert is to feel the music and experience it as it is - loud and in your face.

But keep in mind that a lot of what you feel at a show is in the lower end of the frequency spectrum. You’ll feel that in your chest and bones, but not in your ears.

So, using ear plugs will only lower the volume and filter out the harmful frequencies while still allowing you to experience the music as the artist intended. It’s the best of both worlds!

And don’t forget there are a number of other places where earplugs can be used besides music settings! Large sporting events, motorcycle riding, and operating loud tools or equipment are just a few other examples that can lead to tinnitus over time, so keep those earplugs handy!

They are the best thing you can do for your ears and, ultimately, your music down the line by keeping your ears as pristine as possible.

Effective Monitoring

As a DJ or musician, a key part of your live show will be how you hear what is being played out into the audience. These speakers are called stage monitors and they are set up to face the artist.

They are quieter than the house speakers but are still loud enough to give you an idea of what’s happening on stage.

Stage monitors are just another set of speakers and how you work with them can affect your hearing. Here’s what you can do to prevent any damage:

1. Determine the lowest volume you can set the stage monitors to

    • This minimizes the intensity of sound exposure while still allowing you to connect to your music

2. Address any direct sound sources and adjust them where they won’t compromise sound quality

    • Turn down the instrument amplifiers or on stage speakers

    • Use clear sound barriers around percussive instruments like drums

    • See if you can lower the volume of the venue speakers. If you need to push the lower end more, don’t push the 2-5kHz range (most damage)

3. Consider using in-ear monitors (IEM) to avoid the intensity of the speakers on stage.

    • They can be custom molded to your ear and offer up the control and precision of stage monitors without the potential damage to the ear

These techniques can vary in cost, time, and effectiveness depending on the situation. So, use your best judgement to keep your ears healthy.

Now that we’ve gone over what to do at live music concerts and performances, let’s go over  how your day to day choices can affect your hearing.

Day to Day Decisions with Music

We’re musicians, so it’s natural for music to surrounds us everyday of the week.

But the thing is, your day to day decisions on how you interact with that music determines how much potential damage your ears receive.

Whether it’s practicing your DJ set in your bedroom or working on your live performance in your home or rehearsal space, try to minimize the amount of time you’re rehearsing at loud levels.

It’s important to hear your music at a loud level sometimes, since it’s necessary to get an idea of how your music is going to feel. But keeping the intensity to short bursts will go a long way in terms of your ear health.

Also, while listening to music or producing in the studio with monitors or headphones, keep in mind that your ears will get tired. This is just another reason to keep the levels down when you can and take breaks often.

Taking these precautions along with the others stated above will put you on the path to healthier, more precise ears. Music is an integral part to our lives and the last thing you want to have is tinnitus get in the way of your passion and love for sound!

But what if you already have it? What do you do then?

4. Current Treatments

Currently, there is not a miracle cure for tinnitus. However, scientists are working around the clock to determine the root cause of this condition so they can develop proper treatments for anybody who is affected.

There is even a foundation whose entire mission is “dedicated to reach a better understanding of tinnitus with the goal of effective treatment for all kinds.”

An audiologist out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Frank Wartinger, says there’s no sense in worrying and waiting around for a cure. He puts this condition into perspective and reminds those that are affected that their brain is still working.

If anything, it’s working in overdrive to make up for something that it feels it’s missing. Your gears are turning and your engine is still running strong, so carry on.

Nonetheless, Tinnitus can still be fairly annoying to live with and has the potential to affect every part of a person’s life. But don’t worry.

The good news is, although there is no cure, there are still some treatments out there that may help with your symptoms.

Since every person’s brain is different, treating the symptoms can be more of a trial and error process as opposed to a direct treatment.

But once you find the one that works best for you, it could offer a lot of relief.

So you may want to try as many as you can out. Here are some techniques that could help with your tinnitus.

Sound Therapy

Sound therapy treatments focus on the ear. One such example is notch therapy.

Here, the affected person listens to sound, music, or white noise with the frequency of their ringing removed or “notched” out.

This type of sound therapy is trying to rewire the brain on how it perceives the tinnitus. It tries to trick the brain into thinking the ringing isn’t there by masking it in the music or sound.


There are a few paid apps that will do this for you but there are also a number of free resources online to check out. A quick search on Youtube for “notch therapy” will provide you with a number of premade videos with specific frequencies cut out.

Though this technique doesn’t work for everyone, it does provide relief for those that it does work for.

On the cusp of tinnitus research is a new study that was released back in May of 2017. It showed that AM (amplitude modulated) sounds at low frequencies could provide short term relief for the symptoms of tinnitus.

It’s still fairly new, but new techniques are being tried everyday.

One such technique comes from a reddit comment thread about the possible ways to relieve the symptoms of tinnitus. One user describes a way of snapping their fingers onto the back of their head to provide a small window of silence. Check it out if you’d like to give this a try!


At the moment, there are no FDA approved drugs made specifically to treat tinnitus. But there are some other medications that may provide relief.

Medications like antihistamines, anticonvulsants, anesthetics, and even anti-alcohol drugs have been used to help.

As for long term relief, drug development for a cure, along with stem cell research, are a huge focus for tinnitus research right now. With proper funding and time, scientists are certain they can develop a drug that can help those with this condition.

In addition to this, you may want to try treatments that focus more on the brain rather than the ear..

Brain-Focused Treatments

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has a similar success rate to other sound therapies (i.e. notch therapy). The difference is it also combines aspects of counseling to get your brain acclimated to the tinnitus.

Along with CBT, meditation and mindfulness exercises have been shown make a difference as well. Remember, stress can increase the symptoms, so ridding yourself of stress and anxiety can reduce the intensity of the tinnitus.

Not all of these will work for everyone, but for many, these techniques and treatments can go a long way to help with the day to day relief.


Living with tinnitus can be tough. Musicians especially are susceptible to loud environments and hearing loss, which could lead to tinnitus down the line.

Using protection and making smart choices with how we interact with sound could help prevent damage to the most important productions tools you’ll ever use: your ears.

As we’ve seen, several treatments can provide relief from the constant ringing to a large portion of those who are affected. Notch therapy, CBT, and a few medications can go a long way when you’re living with this condition.

With new research being done, new preventative technologies, and new treatments coming about everyday, there is hope that this type of hearing damage will be a thing of the past.

If you’re already experiencing early signs of hearing loss or tinnitus, it doesn’t mean your career in music has to be over. With all that is available to you, you can take steps to live with it as best as you can and continue to create and perform.

Now we want to hear from you!

Are you affected by any hearing loss?

Do you have tinnitus yourself?

What are some of the things that you do to help in your day to day life?

Let us know below in the comments!