This morning I woke up with the same old familiar ringing in my ears but today it was different because today I knew it would never ever go away and it would only be getting worse. Yesterday I spent the morning in a specialist clinic having my ears tested and then having an interview with a Professor, of Nose and Throat and Ears, to discuss the results of the tests. I have to say I wasn’t surprised by the results but I was surprised about what he told me and it was quite harsh and shocking having it told to you in such a straight forward matter-of-fact way. Told you so…
When those rather great pictures above were taken by Phil Nicholls I was at Moles Studio in Bath recording our first album back in 1997 and I was already having problems with my hearing back then. Those headphones I am wearing are probably loud enough to make most of you jump. By the time we got into the studio we had already gigged and rehearsed for 5 years and six by seven was by no means the first band I had been in. Six By Seven was certainly the most intense band though. We rehearsed everyday for about 4 to 5 hours for nearly two years in a tiny room, full blast, you could hear us 2 streets away. I didn’t wear any ear protection because it caused horrible vibrations in my skull when I was singing. I think back then only one of us used to have cotton wool sticking out of their ears. I didn’t really care though, I was living for the moment, and like the grim reaper, I would deal with my deafness when it came to me.
Well, that was yesterday. Yesterday I was told by a nice man sitting opposite me in a room full of pictures of ears, that although I didn’t know it, I was already a fantastic lip reader. I was stunned to be told that I have been apparently relying on lip reading to understand over 50% of conversation.
“I can’t lip read!” I said.
“Oh yes you can!” came the reply, “and looking at these charts I’d say you are already very good at it as you have probably been developing it over years. If you don’t believe me, put your hand up to cover someone’s mouth from view when you are in an environment where there is noise in the background and you probably won’t be able to understand what they are saying.” Of course he is right, he’s a professor, of ears and nose and throat! SHIT! (btw. I tried it. WEIRD WEIRD WEIRD!!! It feels like my brain is disengaging form reality.)
Afterwards, as I sat on the bus taking me home, I listened to the rubarb and couldn’t understand a word and I noticed how I asked the bus driver the same thing twice and keenly looked at his face while he answered. When I got home I told my daughter about my results and I noticed that as I was talking to her I went into the kitchen and as soon as I turned my back I couldn’t understand a word she was saying. For ages now I have been turning the radio off in the kitchen when people come round or I am having a conversation with a family member or especially when we sit down to have our family meal at 6PM.
“6 Music is shit now” I would say. Maybe so, but now I realize that with the radio on in the kitchen I had no chance of hearing what people were saying around the table as I was busy looking down at my plate and not able to lip read.
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve told people to speak up, told my son not to mumble and been told to keep my voice down. I’m always asking people to move the phone closer to their mouth when I talk to them on the phone. Apparently you can hear me bellowing down the phone as you walk up the drive. It makes sense now, I can’t lip read when I’m on the phone so I enter the classic mode of shouting down the phone loudly as all I am desperatly trying to do is hear what people are saying on the other end!
According to the tests I’m nearly completely deaf in the 4Khz section; that is the tish tish section of our hearing. It is the area where the cymbals and guitars and vocals sit in the mix. This time last year I was dreading rehearsals and gigs and couldn’t understand why. Now I realize that after every gig or rehearsal I would have been straining and concentrating on my lip reading so hard that it was causing me stress without knowing it. Those of you who have been buying my MuZiK KluB releases will have realised how much my music has changed. I thought I was trying hard to change the sound because I wanted to create something new and different. This was in effect true but now I realize that I was also leaving frequencies out because I couldn’t hear them or mix them properly and if I did, they would cause me pain.
Anyway, fear not pilgrims, I only have myself to blame and now I know what is wrong with me I can start a new part of my life. I’ve always thought of myself as an artist and now I am a bona-fide one, complete with lead poisoning from the paint and blindness brought about by hours of painting by candlelight. Turner did his best stuff when he could hardly see a thing and maybe now I can come up with a ‘ba-ba-ba-baaah’ like our beloved Ludwig Van.
I feel like I’m entering my minus-4kHz-blue-period. Now I realize that the fact the new six by seven album doesn’t have any hi hats or cymbals on it and my voice is one octave lower is no coincidence at all. It’s a shame I had to work it out for myself though, it would have been nice to know that I didn’t want them in the mix because I simply couldn’t hear them very well and, when I did, they were causing me more ringing. Oh, and I thought I was being so clever an all.
Now I have been diagnosed, I can enter a new artisic creative period, complete with excuse, and not having to go mad either. The only downside is that I can’t sue six by seven for damages, I simply don’t have the cash.