Noise-induced Hearing loss and Tinnitus Captured on film
In the Hollywood blockbuster A Star Is Born, Bradley Cooper plays country-rock musician, Jackson Maine, who suffers from hearing loss and tinnitus -- a ringing, buzzing, or lingering sense of noise reverberating in the ear. Although tinnitus is not a disease, it is a symptom that can be triggered by multiple sources.
In the film, the origin of tinnitus in Cooper’s character was noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). The result of his hearing loss was probably due to playing rock music without ear protection. The frequent contact with loud music disrupted the way sound was transmitted from his ears to his brain. This caused the ringing in his ears, which got worse over time.
The result of having tinnitus caused his character to suffer from recurring anxiety attacks, depression, and self-destruction. He used drugs to help with his tinnitus and alcohol to numb the pain. He developed an addiction as a result, which caused his tinnitus to worsen. This routine is all too common among those who suffer from tinnitus.
Approximately 25 million to 40 million Americans have tinnitus, and about 20 million have chronic tinnitus while 2 million people endure an extreme form of tinnitus. It is most prevalent among older people and musicians. According to the Hearing Health Foundation, musicians are four times more likely to have NIHL than those who are not musicians. Musicians are 60 percent more likely to suffer from tinnitus. The symptoms can be viewed as a small annoyance, but some people with more intense symptoms can become despondent.
As Cooper’s character correctly stated in the film, just one risk of being in contact with very loud noise can cause tinnitus.
Tinnitus may be caused by a brief, powerful eruption of noise, like an explosion, or even physically from a strike to the ear. In either instance, the damage is caused by the intense force -- which impairs sensory cells in the inner ear or the system that runs from those cells and into the brain.
This condition is not only caused by loud noises or physical strikes to the ear, but it also appears to be genetic. In some instances, it can be caused by ear infections or the result of side effects from certain drugs.
In one scene of the movie, Maine’s brother pressured him to wear protective earplugs that are specially designed for musicians. Typically, these earplugs block the loudest sounds while simultaneously permitting certain frequencies to flow through at a lower volume. Some earplugs known as in-ear monitors have an additional electrical element. These in-ear monitors wirelessly funnel in the sounds from a musician’s fellow band members, while blocking the roar of the crowd and other background noise.
Cooper’s character was unwilling to wear the ear plugs, because he did not want to feel disconnected from his audience.
A Fictional Character’s Hearing loss Inspired by Real-life
This musician’s on-camera dilemma was inspired by real musicians who have publicly discussed their struggles. Eric Clapton, Ozzy Osbourne, and Neil Young have been open about noise-induced impairments to their hearing health.
Musicians today are becoming more aware and informed on how to protect the health of their hearing.
Concealing Symptoms of Tinnitus
A typical misconception among those who suffer from tinnitus is that they will be able to hear better if they can stop the ringing sensation in their ears. This is unlikely, particularly if the symptoms were induced by exposure to loud noise. In these instances, tinnitus and hearing loss go hand in hand with one another. Even with the possibility of getting rid of the ringing noises, patients will continue to have difficulty with hearing.
The consensus among the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders is that there are no supplements that will stop the ringing, or other imaginary noises, but some patients can conceal the symptoms with wearable devices that produce a light shhh sound. There are even other sound generators that can teach the brain to disregard the ringing -- which is a method known as habituation. This cognitive therapy can help patients alleviate any discomfort caused by tinnitus.
Prevent and Treat Tinnitus
If you have tinnitus, it is important to refrain from factors that can make it worse. In addition to staying away from repeated contact with loud sounds, it’s crucial to refrain from smoking and drinking alcohol.
A Star is Born captured the devastating impact of tinnitus, but managing its symptoms is possible. Advanced treatments for tinnitus are available, and have been proven to considerably decrease tinnitus symptoms for over 90 percent of patients.
If you have tinnitus or would like to learn more about solutions for tinnitus, please get in touch with one of our hearing instrument specialists at Pure Sound Hearing Aids.