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Another barrier for patients is the lack of tinnitus understanding among primary care physicians, Howell says. All too frequently, doctors dismiss the symptoms and tell patients to get a grip and learn to live with it. For musicians, though, that's not always possible. One of Howell's patients, a classical musician, had to stop teaching lessons; another musician patient struggled to continue teaching. Citing privacy concerns, these two locally treated musicians declined comment for this story.
But Smith calls the device a life-saver. He noticed some relief of his symptoms within just two days of using it. Some six months after starting, his symptoms had improved so much, they were noticeable only when he thought about them.
"My children said they've never seen such a change in me," he says. "It's made an unbelievable difference."
Styzens, too, says the device has provided an immense emotional and psychological boost. Even so, the tinnitus has forced major changes in his music career. He still teaches percussion, but now uses electronic drums amplified at low volume rather than live drums. As for his own music, he now writes and records soothing instrumental songs for acoustic guitar. In fact, he's gone so far as to start his own record label to collaborate with and support musicians with hearing ailments.
The label is named for the single note that threatened to derail his career but has since been relegated to background noise: A-Sharp.