A former Leeds student developed tinnitus working at gigs - now he helps the city hear as an audiologist in Chapel Allerton
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Paul is the director of audiology at The Hearing Space, a practice providing a range of hearing tests for both children and adults. He was very much aware of the damage that can be done to ears before entering the field of radiology, having developed tinnitus while working at music gigs.
He explained: "I was a student at the University of Leeds in the late 1980s, I finished in 1990. I was very much interested in music, and I used to help put on the sound systems for the bands that were playing. I basically give myself tinnitus and didn't really know what it was at the time. My ears were just constantly ringing. I was studying physics at the time. I started to become a bit interested in what was going on in my ears.”
Tinnitus is the name given for hearing ringing or buzzing that comes from inside your ears. His experience of it prompted a change in direction as Paul decided to study audiology and eventually begin working towards helping others with their hearing.
He said: “A year or two later, I was looking to do a a masters degree and came across audiology and thought it was interesting. It tied in with my physics and it was about hearing. I worked as a clinical audiologist in the NHS for many years in various parts of my country.
"I then ended up lecturing at University of Leeds in audiology. That was my trajectory and then over the years, I could see there was an opportunity to provide a bit more of a timely, personal, bespoke and less clinical audiology service. I got the idea before the Covid-19 pandemic but had to put plans on hold. I've been open nearly a year now.”
Paul is determined to make people aware of the importance of taking care of ears. Although he believes there is greater awareness of hearing issues in 2023, he also insists there are more risks for young people than there once was.
He explained: “There's certainly more awareness than there was when I was young. There are also more risks for the younger population now. The risk used to just be going out to nightclubs and gigs but now everyone has personal earphones. There is quite a lot of evidence coming out that more younger people are presenting with, not necessarily big hearing problems, but with tinnitus as the first thing that they notice.
"There's certainly more awareness in general though. I think it's like anything, there needs to be consistent messages or reminders to young folk that if you're going to listen to this, you can limit the sound, turning it down by small amounts and reducing the impact on hearing.
"A very small reduction in sound can really lower the risk of listening to sound damaging the hearing. The noise-cancelling headphones are better. When you wear them, you tend to block out the background noise so you don't have to turn up the volume quite as much.
"I've been finding that, certainly around north Leeds, there are hearing problems. I'm seeing a lot of children from around West Yorkshire too. I've got that level of experience so that's proving useful, and I enjoy working with kids as well.”
Among his areas of focus is earwax removal, and Paul is offering discounts for the service to NHS staff. He said: “I know how difficult it can be to get earwax removal. Anyone struggling with their hearing needs to get it sorted. Because of my background in the NHS, I wanted to offer a little bit back.”