blog: simon baker
Can you tell us a bit more about the background of your career and what led you to have a hearing test? Was it routine? Did you suspect something might be wrong?
I’ve worked in music for over 20 years – as a Producer, Audio Engineer and a touring DJ.
I started out as a resident DJ at a club in Leeds and then moved up the ranks to headlining parties around the world.
I did a track called Plastik in 2007 (remixed by Todd Terje) and it was voted #2 tune of the year on Resident Advisor. This catapulted me into the limelight and the next minute I was remixing the likes of Simian Mobile Disco, Crazy P and artists such as Jamie Jones and Radioslave and playing in clubs like Berghain and Fabric.
I was on the path and loved every minute, but through this time I had been surrounded by a lot of loud music and as a result I developed severe tinnitus. I assumed it was from continual exposure to loud noise and having the monitors ramped up to the max.
After having my ears checked for damage (thankfully all was fine), a friend of mine recommended Craniosacral Therapy, explaining that it can help with calming the central nervous system, which is directly related to the cranial nerves of the ears. I’d been told that M PEOPLE drummer Andrew 'Shovell' Lovell was doing this type of therapy in London, so I thought he was the obvious choice as he was a fellow music head.
Craniosacral Therapy was quite a life-changing experience for me; not only did it reduce the ringing in my ears, but I felt like I could breathe again. The tinnitus didn't disappear completely, but it subsided enough for me to feel calmer, more balanced and in control. After a few treatments, I started feeling different in other ways. I felt more peaceful, more in-tune and more relaxed. I hadn’t realised how stressed and anxious my nervous system was – not just from the tinnitus – but from everything in life that I was storing up. It became clear that emotions and physical tensions were triggering this ringing in my head.
I continued on this path and learned how to meditate, as well as practicing yoga and mindfulness. I began to see life with more clarity and through this new perspective, I found the link that was missing.
I wanted to share my knowledge and help others feel good, so began training as a Craniosacral Therapist at The College of Craniosacral Therapy in London. I can safely say that this has, by far, been the most rewarding and fulfilling experience of my life to-date. I rarely hear the tinnitus anymore.
Do you think at the time it was mainly your career in music that attributed to your tinnitus?
Initially yes for sure. I used to think it was purely from the loud music I was exposed to, until I went for a hearing test and they said I was fine minus a few top end frequencies, which was kind of normal being a DJ and working in noisy clubs.
I now understand much more about the real reasons my ears were continually ringing louder and louder and not disappearing after a day or two like it would when I was younger. As I learnt through Craniosacral Therapy, my nervous system was in state of ‘fight or flight or freeze’ – the way your body reacts when it feels like it’s in danger so it goes into protection mode.
My lifestyle at the time had a lot to do with this. Lots of travel, unhealthy eating and drinking habits, late nights and all the partying. It’s effectively making your nervous system hypersensitive and this can cause dramatic changes throughout your body. The way you hear changes radically too.
After researching bit more I realised I was hearing the nervous impulses within my own brain. Initially for me it was the stress of the loud music that triggered this in the first place, but the thing that was keeping it in my system was the everyday stresses of life. It turns out these stressors can last months and years, and can eventually lock you into an oversensitive state for much longer.
Did you find that your GP/hearing specialist was attentive to your needs and requirements as a musician?
No, not at all. In my experience, most GPs will just tell you there is no cure and you have to learn to live with it. This is the worst thing you can hear if you have severe tinnitus, as it just sends your stress and anxiety levels even higher.
When I went to see a pharmacy audiologist, they said the same – “You realise there is nothing we can do to help your tinnitus or hearing damage” – in a very blunt manner. I will never forget it! It’s quite a shock the first time you hear this. Thankfully, I have been able to manage mine through finding other ways to sooth myself such as alternative therapy, yoga and meditation. These types of things can be very useful for people suffering.
Tips and encouragement for musicians to look after their hearing.
I always recommend protecting your ears, of course.
So, if you’re in clubs or at gigs then use hearing protection. I am very aware as a DJ myself it can be difficult, especially to use them whilst playing, but just use them as often as you can.
Lifestyle can also play a big role in tinnitus, so be aware of this too. Tinnitus commonly appears after an intense or long-term period of exertion, excitement, stress, challenge or change.
Consequently, most people start noticing symptoms after a period of stress, losing a loved one, an accident, an operation, taking drugs, listening to loud music etc. What I would like to mention here is that most people can get tinnitus if you put them into total silence! In a study Heller and Bergman proved this back in 1953 when they found 93% of people taking part in a test reported hearing noises, even though they were in total silence, so don’t worry if you hear some mild ringing or buzzing occasionally, that can be quite normal.
Get your ears checked regularly, and take advantage of Help Musicians UK’s Musicians’ Hearing Health Scheme.
If you already have tinnitus...
- Contact Help Musicians UK for advice and help.
- Avoid reading negative information online, including forums. These are usually distorted views and cause more anxiety and stress, which is not what you want.
- Recognise a responsibility to stay healthy and keep an eye on your lifestyle, including diet.
- Get in touch with your body. You can’t switch off what you don’t know. Being in touch with your own energy and body is vital to letting go of tinnitus, accepting and allowing, before you can let go.
- Craniosacral Therapy and other body-based practices such as osteopathy and reflexology may help you to switch out of fight or flight mode.
- Meditation, yoga, mindfulness, Tai Chi, and breathing techniques may help keep the nervous system calm and balanced.
- The British Tinnitus Association has a helpline if you need further advice 0800 018 0527
- Understand it can be gradual progress.
About Simon Baker
Simon Baker is a DJ, Producer, Audio Engineer and Craniosacral Therapist
His musical successes include releasing on many labels such as Kompakt, 17 Steps, Drumcode, Cocoon, Last Night On Earth and releasing his debut album “Traces” on 2020 Vision Recordings in 2011, which was very well received in the media and dance floors alike.
These are the views of Simon Baker and do not correspond with those of Help Musicians UK. HMUK is not able to fund craniosacral therapy through its Health and Welfare department.