Almost four decades behind the drums in Metallica, one of the worldâ€™s most famous rock bands, has left its mark on drummer Lars Ulrich. Many loud concerts without any form of ear protection have caused him to suffer from Tinnitus, a constant and painful ringing in the ears.
â€Iâ€™ve been playing loud rock music for the better part of 35 years. I never used to play with any kind of protectionâ€, says 46 year old Lars Ulrich, who has suffered from Tinnitus since a loud Metallica tour in 1988.
Hearing issue developed over time
The ringing in Lars Ulrichâ€™s ears worsened gradually. He became aware of it after waking up several nights in a row.
â€I would often fall asleep with the television on, and I would wake up in the middle of the night to go turn it off,â€ he says.
â€Except it wasnâ€™t actually on. When I realized that I was doing that frequently, actually getting up to turn the TV off that wasnâ€™t on to begin with, I realized that maybe I had some issues.â€
Tinnitus is often perceived as a high-pitched sound in the ears but also as a sound like buzzing, whooshing or clicking. There are multiple causes of Tinnitus but one of the main causes is exposure to loud noises. This is why suffering from Tinnitus has become a somewhat work-related affliction when it comes to rock musicians. However, many injuries can be prevented by the use of protection such as earplugs.
Concerned about the young generations
Today, Lars Ulrich has learned his lesson and therefore always protects his ears with earplugs during concerts.
Now aware of the damaging consequences of too many decibels, he is highly concerned about younger people, the so-called Ipod generation, who listen to loud music and may not be so vigilant about protecting their ears. He therefore encourages all young people to take better care of their hearing:
â€œIf you get a scratch on your nose, in a week that will be gone,â€ Ulrich said. â€œWhen you scratch your hearing or damage your hearing, it doesnâ€™t come back. I try to point out to younger kidsâ€¦once your hearing is gone, itâ€™s gone, and thereâ€™s no real remedyâ€.
More than 50 million people in the U.S. experience some degree of Tinnitus according to the American Tinnitus Association. For 12 million of these, the noise is disabling.