Newtownabbey man urges concert-goers to protect their hearing

Alan Thomson.
Alan Thomson.
Share this article

A Newtownabbey man living with tinnitus is urging concert-goers not to lose the music this summer.

Alan Thomson was diagnosed with the hearing condition in the 1990s after years of attending gigs.

“In my much younger days I would have been an avid music fan and attended many concerts and clubs over the years - mainly rock and heavy metal with a few good Scottish bands thrown in for good measure,” says Alan.

“For as long as I can remember my ears would have been ringing for a day or so after the concert. I first noticed something was odd in the mid-90s at a Def Leppard gig. Towards the end of the concert the sound started to lose definition and it was almost just a screeching in my ears. My ears continued to ring for a few days following the gig. I went to a Prodigy gig in 1997 and was completely deaf for three days. This reduced to a loud ringing in my ears for a week or so after which has been with me ever since.”

And while he has managed to control his tinnitus, Alan admits that it has had a lasting impact on his life. Encouraging people, particularly young people, to be aware of their hearing when enjoying their favourite bands, he adds, “Thankfully, tinnitus doesn’t distract me all the time but I normally keep the radio on in background to take the edge off it. Sometimes flying or a cold will make it worse for a while.

“When I was young I used to get told off for having music too loud and when the Walkman first came out, for having it up too high. I was aware to some extent, but I didn’t fully understand the impact that loud music can have on your hearing. To concert-goers now I would say, definitely wear earplugs and protect your hearing.”

In a bid to educate people about the importance of their aural health, staff and volunteers from Action on Hearing Loss will be at dozens of gigs over the coming weeks, including all Custom House Square and Belfast Vital concerts, giving away free earplugs as part of its campaign supported by the Public Health Agency.

The award-winning ‘Don’t Lose the Music’ campaign aims to raise awareness of the risks of loud music and encourage young people to protect their hearing.

It is estimated that as many as four million young people are at risk of hearing damage because of over amplified music. Music at a live gig can be up to 110 decibels, which is only safe to listen to for two minutes. The longer an individual listens, and the more frequently, the higher the risk of developing permanent hearing loss or tinnitus.

Usually tinnitus has little effect on a person’s daily life and is only mildly annoying. However when experienced more severely, tinnitus can have a significant impact on a person’s mental and physical health, affecting sleep and concentration and causing stress and anxiety.

Claire Lavery, director at Action on Hearing Loss, says:“You don’t have to stop your love of music in order to protect yourself. Wearing earplugs means you can enjoy the music at a safer level and reduce the risk of developing irreversible hearing loss or tinnitus.”

As well as advice, the charity will be handing out rainproof ponchos, wristbands and pop-sockets in exchange for donations. The charity is also sharing information via social media about hearing protection and encouraging people to take photos with its props. A frame is available on the Action on Hearing Loss Facebook page and all photos can be shared via the hashtag #DontLoseTheMusic