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Peter Silberman: I returned to music quietly after painful tinnitus, hearing loss

The Antlers‘ Peter Silberman suffered from a “tremendous,” “all-consuming” tinnitus and hearing loss in his left ear before slowly returning to music again.

The 30-year-old songwriter, vocalist and guitarist told NPR’s All Songs +1 podcast that his hearing loss caused him to retreat from music, friends and public spaces, but after slowly starting to playing music quietly again, he’s ready to release his first solo album.

“It was very scary, this really tremendous ringing in my ears — I don’t even know if ringing was really the right way to describe it, because it really sounded more like rushing water,” Silberman told NPR. “It sounded more like it was in the same family as tinnitus that I had had before. … But this was at a level I’d never experienced before and it was really all-consuming, it took over. Playing music at all was out of the question. The sound of my own voice reverberating in my head was very painful, and I pretty much had to just be more or less silent while this was happening.”

The quite time, allowed him to slow down and reflect on his experience with hearing loss, he told NPR.

“I started trying to play again and trying to sing again, testing where the boundary was of the sensitivity and of the pain of it. What I found was that if I sang very quietly and if I played guitar very quietly that this would be a path for me.”

“What I found was that if I sang very quietly and if I played guitar very quietly that this would be a path for me.”

His new path has resulted in his opening track, “Karuna,” on his solo album, Impermanence, which is schedule to be released in February.

It is unclear what level hearing loss Silberman has or if his tinnitus has retreated with his time away from music. There is no cure for tinnitus, but many people have found relief through various therapies.

Silberman is certainly not the first musician to discuss his hearing loss, or return to music afterward.

Earlier this year, Sting admitted to having hearing loss, and AC/DC front man Brian Johnson reportedly took a break from touring in fears of going deaf. Other musicians have also reported noise-induced hearing loss or tinnitus as a result of constant exposure to loud noise, including the WHO’s Pete Townshend, and Ozzy Osbourne.

Read more: Rock singer’s hearing loss is an important moment for change

Stu Nunnery, a musician and HearingLikeMe author, has often shared his experience about returning to music after hearing loss.

“It’s been a long process, complicated by my particular Sensorineural hearing loss and by my previous musical life, which had given me high expectations,” Stu says. “Advances in hearing technology and new discoveries about the brain gave me hope. But putting the pieces of my musical self together again has been a daunting task for one who had been musically ‘dormant’ for more than 30 years.”

Read more: 6 tips for musicians with hearing loss

About 1.1 billion people around the world are affected by hearing loss, including more young people than ever. To prevent permanent hearing damage, it’s important to protect your ears against loud noise. There are many different types  of ear plugs that can lower the level of sound reaching the eardrum, and ear plugs specially designed for musicians to wear while performing. 

Just two minutes at a concert with 110dB of sound can cause hearing damage, according to Hear the World. And, it’s not just musicians and concert goers who are in danger. Streaming music on an iPod can produce a maximum of 100-115 decibels, which is the equivalent similar to using a chainsaw or attending a rock concert, according to Time

If we want to enjoy the sounds of life it’s time we be more active to protect our ears.



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