‘Sticky Fingers’ lead guitarist, living with tinnitus, calls on Aussies to be smarter about their hearing health
This Hearing Awareness Week, Sticky Fingers guitarist, Seamus Coyle, Delta Riggs bassist Michael “Monte” Tramonte, and Elizabeth Rose are speaking out to stress the need for us to do better when it comes to hearing health
- After living with tinnitus for a number of years – Seamus Coyle is keen to ensure preventable lifestyle choices don’t result in needless damage to hearing health.
- Joining forces with Macquarie University’s Australian Hearing Hub during Hearing Awareness Week, the musicians want to highlight the impact of a lesser-known, but growing Aussie health scourge: hearing loss and impairment.
- Hearing loss among young adults is expected to rise from one in six, at the current time, to one in four by 2050, hence the need for immediate action now.
During Hearing Awareness Week 2017 (21st – 26th August) Macquarie University’s world-leading Australian Hearing Hub, is calling out to remind Australians not to forget about their hearing health, by highlighting the true scale of the epidemic in this country.
Not only is the physical impact of hearing loss and impairment on the drastic rise in Australia, the financial impact on the economy is too. Fiscally-speaking, the collective condition amounts to a staggering $12 billion in lost productivity and health costs.1
Tinnitus is one of the more well-known, but little-understood, hearing conditions that results in a constant ringing – or buzzing – in the ears. A hearing issue that has long-troubled popular musician Seamus Coyle, of Aussie band Sticky Fingers:
“After years of playing with a big stack amp in front and behind me, it finally resulted in a ringing that never went away,” says Seamus.
The leading cause of hearing loss in Australia is exposure to excessively loud noise, a problem which is growing – particularly among young adults – and which Professor David McAlpine, from Macquarie University’s Australian Hearing Hub, wants to see addressed to prevent further damage.
“It’s imperative that we better-arm young adults with the information and means necessary to take preventative action for their hearing health, as once these issues arise, it’s almost too late,” says Professor McAlpine.
“The long-term impact of hearing loss can be devastating – not just from a personal perspective, but from a societal and emotional lens too, hence the need for us to do better.”
Monte, bassist for the Delta Riggs, is also adding his voice to warn upcoming musicians about the dangers of hearing impairment: “I play music for a living, so my ears are pretty much the most important thing I need,” says Monte. “If I don’t protect my ears, the thing I love most in life is gone.”
It is due to this hearing loss epidemic, that the Australian Hearing Hub is encouraging people to take note of their hearing health, and as an immediate and simple first step, Professor McAlpine and his team are suggesting a ‘noise diet.’
“If you know you’re going to be clubbing, for example, don’t spend your commute with headphones on full blast. Give your ears a break from the noise.”
“This is just one example of how we can do better to limit our exposure to excessive noise. It’s not about living in silence, or dampening our fun, it’s about acknowledging that hearing loss and impairment are growing issues – and that we must all do better to reduce the burden,” Professor McAlpine continues.
Elizabeth Rose, an Australian DJ who suffers from mild tinnitus and now uses custom moulded ear plugs to protect her hearing, says that ear protection is not only essential in her occupation, but has also benefited her craft.
“As a producer, singer and DJ, I need my ears in order to progress in my career. When I play live and sing I use a custom moulded in ear monitoring system so I can hear the foldback clearly and directly in my ear with outside noise blocked out. Switching to in ears has also made a big difference in how on pitch I sing too – it has made me more accurate.”
As another high-profile depiction of the impact of tinnitus, the condition was the focus of the popular movie ‘Baby Driver,’ in which lead character, Baby, drowns out the ringing in his ears by cranking up the amp of his sound system.
Professor McAlpine, who suffers from tinnitus himself after going to a loud gig many years ago, warns that even a single exposure to loud noise can damage our hearing: “While music can be used as a therapy for tinnitus, excessive levels can cause further damage. Good quality hearing protection that lowers exposure without impacting sound quality can reduce the risk of acquiring irritating and sometimes debilitating tinnitus.”
“Alternatively, if you are already experiencing tinnitus, it is important to seek professional help – you are not alone,” Professor McAlpine added.
As for Seamus’ warning to upcoming musicians and festival goers, he has a simple message: “If you get tinnitus you’re stuck with it for life.”
For further information on Hearing Awareness Week and advice on how to better protect your hearing, please visit this page. There is also an array of hearing clinics on campus, an online hearing test and noise risk calculator available, as well as free hearing checks offered during Hearing Awareness Week at convenient community locations.