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Home » Stephen Emmer at the forefront of musicians with tinnitus and hearing loss

Stephen Emmer at the forefront of musicians with tinnitus and hearing loss

stephen emmer to the rescue for musicians with tinnitus and hearing loss

Tinnitus, a solution does exist.

Hoormij-NVVS submitted this proposition to experts by experience and (healthcare) professionals. Why? To provide insight into the options if you are dealing with this – non-curable – condition. Over 95% of people learn to live with it. That gives courage. Because we understand how big an impact it can have on your life. Composer Stephen Emmer struggles with severe hearing damage. The 64-year-old musician, responsible for numerous well-known TV tunes, has had tinnitus for over 10 years. Musicians hardly dare to aknowledge. That has to change.

“My tinnitus hid for 25 years before it manifested itself. Here’s the thing: I was on tour in England as a musician – in the early 1980s – and at one point was bullied by some technicians who pretended the speakers weren’t working. They asked me to try again, standing closer. Sounded deafening suddenly. Now it apparently worked. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the gentlemen laughing their heads off. What a joke!

Hearing test

The performance that night went fine. And even the 25 years after, I had no bothersome aftermath of it. Until I woke up one day in 2008 and was literally still on one ear and couldn’t understand what was being asked of me from the sitting room. A hearing test followed. This included a so-called uncomfortable listening test. A test on how loud you can still tolerate the sound in terms of volume. I never should have taken that test, because it turned out to be the trigger of my tinnitus. In retrospect, that played too hard into the noise dip that I had thus suffered 25 years earlier.

From powerlessness to treatment

“The first few weeks I had it, I didn’t know where to look for it. There seemed to be no end to a day, let alone being able and willing to think about Christmas presents, for example. Through an overwhelming jungle of care, I finally ended up at a mental health institution in South Holland that offered cognitive therapy for people with tinnitus and hyperacusis. In particular, you learn there not to let your reaction to the sound in your head lead to panic or anxiety. That is still a therapy technique used today. Does it help? Yes and no. You can – at least if you are willing – try to change your “coping mechanism. It won’t make the sound go away, but it can affect your perception of the volume. That’s a good thing. But that perception is personal. One person experiences sound at an identical volume differently than another. For example, on a scale of 1 to 10, one person may experience sound and its volume as an 8 (intense) and another as a 4. That makes it difficult to treat on the one hand, but can also be a potential lead for a therapist to work on.”

Individualized approach

“People often talk about habituation, or getting used to everything. And that too differs from person to person. Some people come to a form of acceptance more easily than others. So if you look at the proposition: Tinnitus, there is a solution, you could argue for more differentiation in that approach. Think about providing more individual tailoring, which would allow someone to relate even better to the therapeutic solution offered. After all – and this must also be said – a medical solution still does not exist.”

Encourage medical solution

“My opinion on this was recently reinforced by the accelerated development of a working Covid vaccine, avoiding a potential humanitarian disaster. Yet, it also indicated that if only there is enough danger to society, more options, and thus medical solutions, for tinnitus can be harnessed than has been the case so far. The trigger is also heightened by recent survey figures. So many people worldwide are experiencing tinnitus, including a growing group of young people. The Pharmaceutical industry should give more priority to this, whether or not it should be prompted – or even required – by governments. Perhaps that medical solution is on the horizon, if the lights are green for that. Meanwhile, the therapeutic sector continues to develop new support based on new insights. This is an important lifeline for those currently struggling with tinnitus.

Musicians with tinnitus

Musicians are known to suffer greatly from tinnitus due to prolonged and regular exposure to loud sound. The same is true for technical support staff at concerts or events. Finally, the public also experiences inconvenience. They hear it even louder than the musicians on stage. Therefore, it is time for those who produce this kind of noise to take personal responsibility as well. And coming up with alternative solutions from a creative angle to complement the existing healthcare offerings.

Artists Against Tinnitus

As a musician and expert by experience, I recently founded the Artists Against Tinnitus Foundation. On top of that we also started an online petition to take musicians seriously as interlocutors in the social discussion on this issue. Last November, the Health Council released its report, advising on hearing damage. Maarten van Ooijen then indicated that he would first like to enter into discussions with the covenant partners from the sector; this took place on February 1, 2023. The Artists against Tinnitus Foundation and Hoormij-NVVS asked him to listen not only to the covenant partners, but also to other voices. The voices of musicians, composers, producers and venue and studio technicians. In March another discussion round will follow, to which they are invited.

Sign the petition here

[Source: Hoormij – MVVS]