All Ears: Three ravers are trying to stop you getting tinnitus from clubbing

The campaign is telling you to sort yourself out and start wearing ear plugs in the rave

Thomas Goulding
Monday 12 February 2018 15:33 GMT
Matt Cope (left), Oli Katz (centre) and John Carter (right) of the All Ears campaign estimate to have so far sold about 1,000 ear plugs at club nights
Matt Cope (left), Oli Katz (centre) and John Carter (right) of the All Ears campaign estimate to have so far sold about 1,000 ear plugs at club nights

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Louise Thomas

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The sight of ear plugs in dance floors across the country is becoming more and more prevalent. Just as tinnitus, the hearing condition where the high-pitched ringing after a night out becomes a permanent reality, enters the life of a new generation of ravers, so has a burgeoning movement to raise awareness, prevent and treat the condition.

The “All Ears” campaign, a new project run by the three friends behind the Watch the Hype music blog, has partnered with Fabric nightclub as well as a host of other venues in London, Bristol and Leeds, to get ear plugs in as many people’s ears as possible.

Tinnitus is the permanent, phantom noise your brain perceives as a result of damage to the hair cells in your inner ear, often from loud noise. That noise is different for each person, but is often a ringing, clanging or hissing, and there is no cure to stop your brain perceiving this sourceless din. With 600,000 people in the UK suffering from tinnitus, only palliative options can help avoid the stress, anxiety and sleep loss that result. And given there is no easily accessible way to test one’s susceptibility to picking up tinnitus, which is genetic, ear plugs is the best line of defence for anyone who enters a club, where noise levels will typically be 100 decibels or higher – meaning your ears will be “at risk” from damage after just 15 minutes.

As lovers of house music and techno, Matt Cope and Oli Katz both suffer from tinnitus, and along with colleague John Carter, have been appearing in clubs representing All Ears since last September. They estimate they have spoken to up to 20,000 people across 25 events, inside the likes of Corsica Studios, Oval Space and Wire Club in Leeds, and over the next few months will be at Fabric, E1 and Motion clubs, which offer some of the most powerful sound systems in the country.

At these nights they sell Alpine Hearing ear plugs that are of sufficient quality so as not to worsen the sound experience, at a price of £10.99. However, they say anecdotally, the percentage of punters wearing ear plugs of their own accord is often in the single digits. “It depends on the type of night, “ says Carter. “For techno line-ups like Helena Hauff or Ben UFO, say, more people are wearing them and people are more receptive of the campaign. For tech house nights, it’s trickier to engage with the audience.”

A typical response they say is people who have been meaning to buy some and starting wearing them, but haven’t yet got round to it. Given foam ear plugs you can buy in most shops make the music sound like you are underwater, this crucial knowledge gap of where to get the good but affordable ear plugs is often the crucial stumbling block for punters. The All Ears campaign hopes to take such a product to the punters in the moment as directly as possible, and Katz estimates they have so far sold about 1,000 ear plugs at nights.

The battle to fight two misperceptions – that you will hear the music less well, and you will look strange on the dance floor wearing them – is gradual, but one that is slowly being won, they say. “The nicher the sound of the night, the higher levels [of ear-plug wearing], because there is a higher level of devoted fans,” says Katz. The sight of ear plugs being worn across a crowd at an Elrow party or Amnesia in Ibiza may be a long time away, but with this campaign, the steps towards such a future are being made.

Clubbers can pick up Alpine ear plugs from the All Ears team from the following events:

16 February – Shall Not Fade at Motion
16 February – Sven Vath World tour at E1
17 February - Pleasure Connection at Wire Club
17 February – Craig Richards and Ricardo Villalobos, Pariah and more at Fabric

23 February – Christian Lofler Ensemble at E1
23 February – DJ EZ at Motion
24 February - Move D at Wire Club
24 February – DJ Stingray 313 at E1
24 February – Bicep, Jonas Kopp and Anastasia Kristensen at Fabric
25 February – Tale Of Us fabric 97 Album Launch Party at Fabric
2 March - Trouble Vision with Dark Sky at Corsica
3 March – Moodymann at E1

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