Many musicians know all too well the impact that tinnitus can have. According to one study, we musicians are 57% more likely to get tinnitus than non-musicians. Although there is no medically proven treatment for tinnitus, a new free app called T-Minus may provide sufferers some measure of relief.
A constant ringing
Tinnitus is defined as an audible sound that persists, even though there is no actual source behind it. Many people describe the sound as a ringing or buzzing, but it can also be a clicking, hissing or roaring. Depending on the severity of the condition, the sound can be loud or soft, low or high pitched, or come from one or both ears. An estimated 1-3% of the world’s population suffers from tinnitus so severe, that leading a normal life can become nearly impossible.
Constant exposure to loud sound sources increases the risk of tinnitus, or can exacerbate an already existing condition. Unfortunately, that is why many musicians, especially those who play louder instruments like the drums, suffer from it.
Tinnitus: Don’t give up
Drummer Rupert Brown has been dealing with tinnitus for over 30 years. After a string of shows with Roy Ayers at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in 1991, Brown found he was having difficulty hearing with his left ear. Instead, it was flooded with a cacophony of screams, bells and thunder. As the condition worsened and took its toll on the musician, he found that not only could the doctors not help him, they instead told him he should give up the thought of ever playing music again.
Unnerved, Brown went hunting for solutions. In a fascinating recent interview, he tells how he discovered that jamming the Record, Play and Pause buttons on an old Toshiba cassette player produced a hissy white noise sound, that made his tinnitus bearable for him. Eventually, using this form of therapy, Brown was able to regain control of his life and went on to play with the likes of Nigel Kennedy, Cher, The Lighthouse Family, Darryl Hall and Robbie Robertson, to name just a few.
The T-Minus app is the culmination of Rupert Brown’s experiments that began with that old Toshiba cassette player. It contains a music library of what he calls ‘Mind Environments’ that includes tinnitus-specific music, broadband sounds, modulated sound and fractal tones that users can choose from and tailor to their own specific needs. The T-Minus website says the app can cover a whole range tinnitus noises, and also provides links and tips for how to cope with the condition. The content is also available via Spotify to anyone with a premium account. The T-Minus app is free; an Android version is in the works.
Rupert says, “Creating this music has been an incredible journey. It’s been scary, dark and emotional and has opened up deep wounds and sensitivities surrounding my own issues, … What started out as a DIY approach to my own tinnitus has led me to create this sound therapy library. I hope it’s as helpful to others as it has been for me.”
Hopefully, anyone suffering with this awful condition will be able to find relief using this app.
For further reading, check out their website. A documentary film on Solent University’s YouTube channel (below) featuring Rupert is quite illuminating, too.