Anne Savage’s story | British Tinnitus Association
My music career began 28 years ago, 20 of which I have spent coping with tinnitus and hearing loss caused by exposure to loud sound, doing the job I love.
The last decade has seen an increase in my symptoms, heightened by long periods of silence trying to study for a degree. That’s when it first became frighteningly noticeable. My ears used to ring after a performance, but that would dissipate after a few days, then one day it just didn’t stop. The fear that the constant ringing was now my new silence sent me to some very dark places. I still avoid or dread social situations where there is any background noise because I can’t single out individual voices. This creates feelings of embarrassment, isolation and sadness because I can’t enjoy special celebrations such as family gatherings or weddings. Part of the joy of being a musician is socialising before or after a performance, but now I leave as soon as I can to avoid worsening my tinnitus.
I did seek medical advice: my GP referred me to an ENT specialist for tests, but the help offered was very disappointing. Even though I knew there is no cure for tinnitus before I attended the appointment, I did expect some practical advice. However, I was simply asked if I was coping and ushered out the door, which left me feeling quite desperate.
I cut down on performances and studio projects for fear of aggravating the tinnitus or, worse, going completely deaf. I considered giving up my job as a musician completely, which left me with an identity crisis as to who or what I would be without my music career.
I eventually did find help by reaching out to other sufferers and wonderful organisations such as the BTA. I am still surprised how, sadly, some musicians are cautious of discussing their tinnitus, as if ‘being found out’ might jeopardise future work engagements.
Currently I am happy to say that even though I have tinnitus, I don’t ‘suffer’ from it as much, and this is due to techniques I have learned, such as relaxation, meditation and mindfulness. I listen to soothing sounds of nature whilst studying or going to sleep, which really does help. Obviously, I wear hearing protection and practise noise safety, but I do still perform and continue to write music! I passionately campaign to raise awareness of tinnitus and the dangers of noise in order to try to help others to avoid damaging their hearing.
Find out about our research into the impact of tinnitus on musicians, and support available to help musicians to manage their tinnitus