Eddy Says

Eddy says: Sometimes awareness is the last thing you need

By | Published on Monday 31 January 2011

Eddy Temple Morris

Next week, in my role as ambassador for the British Tinnitus Association, I will, for the second time, be launching Tinnitus Awareness Week.

Tinnitus awareness is a double-edged sword. Like ‘fighting for peace’, it’s almost in as much conflict as ‘fucking for virginity’. On the one hand, there is a desperate need for awareness out there. Venues with soundsystems need to make their customers aware that they can permanently damage their hearing just by entering the premises. People need to know about the clear and present danger of iPods, nightclubs, and gigs, a danger that leaves over 10% of the population unable to ever hear silence again.

Though conversely, if you are, like me and many of my friends and colleagues, unfortunate enough to be in that 10% demographic, then you will probably curse Tinnitus Awareness Week with every pore in your body, because the absolute worst thing, aside from painfully loud music, is to be reminded of the condition.

The human brain is very good at selectively ignoring something like tinnitus, this comes with practice and with time. There are some interesting new treatments, like the one involving hypnotherapy, that can train your mind to ignore it. There is another, promising method that involves the stimulation of a particular gland, which can magically alleviate the symptoms of tinnitus (though possibly only temporarily). They’ve done this successfully with some furry creatures and are now testing it out on humans.

But these new fangled and largely untested treatments aside, there is a much simpler, cheaper, tried and tested method of dealing with this often insufferable condition once you have got it. It’s like there is a switch in your brain, but the switch is in a dark room. At first you have to fumble around to find it, but once you’ve entered the room enough times, your hand goes to the switch, even in pitch darkness.

To imagine how this works, think of the couple who live under the flight path of a major airport. You are invited for Sunday lunch there, and the first thing you notice is the horrendous noise of jet engines roaring over the rooftops every forty seconds. You politely compliment your hosts on their decor and the wonderful smell of roast beef, then you ask how they cope with this awful racket?

“What racket?” they say, honestly, before their brain allows them to engage with that sound. Then they realise. “Oh THAT sound? We just got used to it. After a while you just forget about it”.

Now, therein lies the key to living with tinnitus, and the best bit of advice I ever got, from anyone, over the decade or so that I’ve had it. The advice came from Peter Wheeler, of the BTA, an eminent man in the world of audio. His advice sounds flippant on the surface, but if you really think about it, in light of what you’ve read here, it’s the simplest, most effective, psychologically and physically, watertight bit of advice you could give to any of that 10%: “Just forget about it”, he said.


When Peter first said that to me, he had a little Mona Lisa smile, the corner of his mouth upturned slightly, and his eye glinted because he knew how it sounded, but as a fellow sufferer for many years, he’d had more than enough practice at finding that internal switch, and I realised soon afterwards, how profound those four words actually are for me.

I’ve learned to live with it because I’ve taught myself to become ‘tinnitus unaware’, and ironically, or even oxymoronically, that’s what I’m trying to impart to people in Tinnitus Awareness Week.

When I’ve come back from a loud gig, and I’m sitting at home, it’s 4am and all is quiet around me, inside and out, it’s then that the full horror of tinnitus is revealed. The cacophony in my head is unbearable, enough to make a grown man cry, or go insane.

Remember Omid Djalili in ‘The Mummy’? An evil scarab beetle had burrowed under his skin and was working its way up to his brain. He let out a blood curdling scream then ran down a corridor at full pelt and head first into a stone wall. That’s precisely how I feel in that situation. Tiredness and stress both make it worse.

There was a time, many years ago, that I may have joined Omid in that sprint through the bowels of that pyramid, but now I’ve learned how to deal with it. I don’t let the despair take over. I just flick the switch, and think of something else. Of course, the noise is still there, it’s always there, but like those people under the airport flight path, I’ve learned how to become unaware of it, and if you’re a fellow ten percenter, then you must do the same, and then you will get to the equivalent of Nirvana, a state of Zen, of ultimate peace: Just forget about it.

Meanwhile, please support the BTA this week and next by downloading Cage Against The Machine again, or by persuading a mate to get earplugs, or getting them for yourself, or just by helping spread the word. Maybe forward this to someone you know who has tinnitus. If you know any drummers, send this to them, chances are they’ll have it, as sure as a catholic priest likes a kiddy-fiddle.

Because of the lovely people at Musician’s Hearing Services, I’m able to offer a 20% discount to anyone who wants proper fitted earplugs, the kind that don’t interfere with the fidelity of the music, which normally cost £170. These are the same plugs worn by everyone from me to Plan B, and from Chris Martin to Erol Alkan. Email geraldine.daly@harleysthearing.co.uk – tell her I sent you and you’ll get a 20% discount off your plugs, plus you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with being in safe hands.

Or, if you’re within easy reach of Soho on 7 Feb, I’ve organised a little something special. I’m launching Tinnitus Awareness Week at Quo Vadis in Dean Street, who have kindly supported us on this project. Geraldine from Musician’s Hearing Services will be there fitting people for plugs, and she is kindly, for that one day only, going to bring the price down even further to £130. We’ll be there on the first floor, between 11am and 2.30pm, so you could come in your lunch break, it only takes a few minutes.

If you have any ear-related questions or problems, then Geraldine and Dr Paul Checkley from Musician’s Hearing Services will be there to talk to you, so you can get free advice from some of the finest professionals in their field. I’ll be there too and available to chat to anyone, as will a few other interesting tinnitus suffering DJs.

Hope to see you there on Monday.
Eddy x