Throughout September, while students across the country will be throwing themselves into freshers’ activities and the local nightlife, not many will think that while making friends for life they might also end up with a lifelong health condition.
National charity Action on Hearing Loss is warning that this concentrated period of non-stop partying can take its toll on students’ hearing and is urging them to wear ear plugs while going to clubs, bars and gigs during the freshers’ season.
Most people have experienced ringing in the ears after a night of partying, but six million – that’s one in ten – are living with it all the time. Tinnitus is often described as ‘ringing in your ears’, but some people might also hear buzzing, whistling or whooshing. It can occur after exposure to loud noise, in places like clubs and bars, and symptoms can last anywhere from 24-hours to being permanent damage.
For many the first experience of tinnitus starts during their college years. Final year student, James Eckstein, 25, used to work in a club and went out partying regularly until one morning he woke up with a ‘constant ringing’ sound in his left ear, which has never gone away.
He said: “I’m a musician and audio engineer, during college a teacher once explained to me about tinnitus and how important it was to protect your ears, but I didn’t think going to a nightclub a lot would affect this. At the time I was young, 19, and I just wanted to enjoy myself, like everyone else at that age.
“I used to visit nightclubs three to four times a week, as I worked in a nightclub and also went out multiple times. I never wore ear plugs because I was not educated well enough about the importance of wearing them. My tinnitus started about one year after I stopped going clubbing and raving. One day I discovered a constant ringing in my left ear, I had to go to the doctor four times to get referred to an ENT clinic to find out why. I did my own research and found out that your ears start to get damaged a little more each time you are exposed to loud noise. Unfortunately for me it was too late; I am 25 and I now have to live with this for the rest of my life.”
According to a recent online poll by Action on Hearing Loss, 72% of 800 people said they would wear earplugs if they were provided to them in a nightclub, but unfortunately only some nightclubs offer free earplugs or clearly advertise them as available to use.
James continued: “I think it’s a must that nightclubs should make clubbers aware of the potential damage it can cause over time. I know it may look uncool to promote this in a nightclub, but it’s a very important matter.
“I can’t stress how important it is to protect your ears. I used to go out all the time just partying and enjoying myself and now I regret not wearing plugs because I now have a faint constant ringing in my left ear.
“I’m currently studying Music and Sound Production Technology and I just want people to know that my tinnitus has not impacted my work or stopped me from pursuing my dream, you can still live the life you choose, I just want to educate people about protecting their hearing while hitting the clubs.”
To avoid getting tinnitus during the party-filled freshers’ season, the charity suggests taking simple steps. These include not standing too near the speakers for a prolonged amount of time, taking breaks from the noise and wearing ear plugs while going to clubs, bars and gigs. Modern earplugs are discreet, they don’t block out the music, only the dangerous frequencies and don’t get in a way of a having a good time.
Gemma Twitchen, Senior Audiologist at Action on Hearing Loss, explained: “We don’t want people to stop going to music events – that’s not what this is about. There is a misconception that if you wear ear plugs you can’t hear or enjoy the music, but this is simply not true! Ear plugs will block out the dangerous sound frequencies, still allowing you to listen to the music and enjoy it”.
The safe exposure time to listen to music at 85dB is eight hours. For context, the equivalent of 85bd is the sound of a food processor, but for sounds of 110–120dB, like in nightclubs, even a short exposure time of 15 minutes can cause hearing damage.
If you do experience symptoms of tinnitus for longer than a 24-hour period, the charity recommends people visit their local GP.
While there is currently no cure for tinnitus that does not mean you cannot live your life to the fullest. There are many effective ways of managing it. Visit the Action on Hearing Loss website for more information https://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/hearing-health/tinnitus/