I Went To A Sound Bath To Cure My Tinnitus, And It Made Me Feel High

After years of DJing and clubbing, I'm on the hunt for a cure.

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Feb 26 2014, 5:45pm

A little while ago I wrote a piece on the perils of Tinnitus, an affliction that many DJs suffer from. In my original article Carl Craig admitted that he suffers with it, but also revealed that he uses recordings of Tibetan bowls to "reset" his hearing. Which got me thinking about how useful sound therapy is in treating damaged ears. It's got to be beneficial, right? I mean a lot of us, including myself, are likely to be pretty open-minded when it comes to the world of meditation. The electronic music world seems to be full of people who have adopted a more 'spiritual' lifestyle, so I thought it would be interesting to investigate Carl's method, and immerse myself in a sound bath at a yoga studio in Camden. 

My ears have taken quite a battering themselves over the years. I started going to parties when I was 14, and my friends would play dancehall at events at our local youth club, or there'd be some house party or other on my estate. Back then none of the sound levels were regulated—the louder, the better. At the same time, I've had earphones practically implanted in my lugholes and music whacked up to top volume for a couple of decades now. There's also all the hours I've spent in clubs over the last 15 years or so.

At the age of 32, I've been DJing for around two years and working as a music writer, which means being at close proximity to the sometimes uncomfortably loud monitors in DJ booths. The average person has a hearing range that operates between 20 and 20,000hz. After testing my hearing via this website, I found that I can hear everything within this range. Phew. 

Regardless, I thought this sound bath warranted an investigation, and so I set off from my South London base to the Stables Market in Camden, where I had booked a session at their bi-weekly Sonic Enchantment class, hosted by Columbian Fabio Garces. Fabio is a fascinating character. Having grown up in a country where traditional chanting and ancient forms of tribal rhythm have been used to "heal" and assist in shamanic ceremonies, he has a strong belief in the powerful benefits of sound and frequency for the human condition. After falling in love with electronic music while living in Costa Rica, he got into DJing and eventually made his way to London where he studied production, exploring frequencies and their effect on our state of mind.

He started up Sonic Enchantment four years ago with a friend, and has been deeply immersed in the pursuit of audio-based therapy ever since. The aim is simple: to provide an auditory experience that allows one's mind to open, to help participants reach that zen state that occurs during deep meditation, and provoke an inner tranquility. Sounds great. Even better still is that Fabio, and many others like him, have identiified the frequencies which help to lull our brain into that deep meditative state, meaning his soundscapes make it easier to go down the rabbit hole. 

So there I was, in a yoga studio in Camden, shoes off about to lay my head down on a comfy, colourful pillow, and ready to let my ears, brain and body soak in Fabio's sound bath. As I lay there, I was feeling a bit dubious about the whole thing, but equally curious. And then the sounds began to wash over me. 

Like many others, I don't think there's a waking moment when I can fully switch my brain off, but as time went on I felt myself slowly disconnecting. It became easier to bat away any thoughts that started to creep up into my mind, and I began to drift away. I've tried meditation at home on several occasions and it's very difficult for me, so I can only credit my smooth transition into that relaxed to the sounds that were permeating into my mind.

Fabio uses a combination of sounds (mostly derived from nature, which of course is the most soothing and easy to digest for most people) swathes of wistful atmospherics (which he has composed himself), and delicate chimes to create layers of sound which draw you in. The more you focus on his compositions, the more you can hear and the more you drift away into your own subconscious. Occasionally, Fabio and his assistant would walk around the room and give each person in the class their own chime; the point blank vibrations went right through me and helped to make the experience all the more lucid. 

I lasted the whole 90 minutes without fidgeting much or feeling frustrated at being so stationary. In fact, the only real disturbance I had was when the guy next to me fell asleep. At the end of the bath the class gathered around in a circle, held hands and let out three deep "Ommms." 

The feeling I had when I left was hilarious. It was akin to being high; I was literally buzzing. Falling into such a deep meditative state meant that everything felt light, clear, and fresh afterwards. My ears in particular felt as though they'd had a good old clean out and, amazingly, there was no background noise at all. It had vanished. I actually didn't want to put my earphones in to give me ears an even longer, well-deserved break. It was blissful and unexpected. 

My awareness substantially increased, too. It might sound odd, but I guess because life is always flying by at such a fast pace, my outlook is sometimes foggy. With so many things to think about, you lose focus on what's going on around you. The sound bath definitely helped to make things clearer, and that's a by-product of meditation in any form really. Comparing it to a rebirth may be a step too far, but it was certainly what I'd consider a flick of the reset button and that feeling lasted for the rest of the evening. 

What effect did it have on my hearing? I can only hazard a guess that it was beneficial in some way, if only to counteract any high pitched ringing that exists in my inner ear. Fabio can actually tailor his soundscapes to work on those who suffer from tinnitus. If he can asertain their frequency range before the class, then he can adapt the sonic treatment to their needs.

It may not be for everyone but since there are no true medical cures for Tinnitus, it's definitely worth a try. I've already signed up for my next class.

Marcus Barnes is a DJ, promoter, radio host on Hoxton.fm and music journalist who hates having tinnitus. You can follow him on Twitter here: @mgoldenbarnes

Marcus Barnes is a DJ, promoter, radio host on Hoxton.fm and music journalist who hates having tinnitus. You can follow him on Twitter here: @mgoldenbarnes

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