“I spent many nights as a teenager going to gigs without earplugs, and at university I spent lots of time in club and concert spaces – I didn’t protect my hearing there either.
My ears usually 'rang' after I'd been out, but after one particular gig they didn't stop ringing – the tinnitus has been there ever since. It was pretty horrible at the time to think I had ear damage and it took me ages to come to terms with it, but once I accepted that it wasn’t going away and not to 'fight' it, that's when I started to feel better about it.
Tinnitus is a very subjective thing to suffer from because I'm aware everyone’s is slightly different: mine is a high-pitched whistle, for instance, while a lot of people I've spoken to ‘hear’ other sounds.
My tinnitus increases noticeably when I've had a drink, or when I’m stressed or haven't slept properly, which is quite a lot when I'm out on tour, so I'm careful to take care of my overall wellbeing as much as possible. I'm hopeful that at some point in my life I'll see a breakthrough to combat tinnitus, but at the moment I'm doing my best to make small adjustments to my life to ensure it doesn't get worse.
As a musician and producer, I'm careful now to wear earplugs and be wary of the type of volumes I expose myself to. Working on my own music in the studio, I try not to expose myself to hours and hours of noise every single day – it's a lot better for my ears when I work on it all in chunks, a couple of hours at a time.
My tinnitus does impact on my social life sometimes. Most noticeably, I struggle to pick out voices in noisy places like bars or pubs, but I've learnt not to be embarrassed to ask someone to speak up a bit.
Some days can be a real struggle, but I'm lucky that my tinnitus has never really made me depressed or anxious like I know it does for a lot of people.
I've been quite surprised at the number of people I’ve come across who’ve told me that they have the same thing – but either don't understand what it is, or hadn't heard anyone else talk about it before. I don’t think young people are aware of the risks or, even if they are, they think: ‘Oh, it won’t happen to me.’ But the truth is that just one loud moment can trigger something that won’t ever go away. If young people knew how distressing tinnitus can be, they’d protect their ears at all cost.”