Tinnitus depiction in Hollywood movie

The latest box office success in cinemas is ‘A star is born’ featuring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. Seasoned musician Jackson Maine (Cooper) discovers − and falls in love with − struggling artist Ally (Gaga). She has just about given up on her dream to make it big as a singer until Jackson coaxes her into the spotlight. But even as Ally's career takes off, the personal side of their relationship is breaking down, as Jackson fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons.

Whilst most reviews and press coverage are focusing on how brilliant Gaga is in the lead role or how great Cooper is staring in and directing this remake, a couple of publications have picked up on one of the side plots.

Maine performs very loud, rock-n-roll concerts to sold-out arenas every night. Because of all this noise, combined with the fact that he was born with hearing loss, Maine hears a constant ringing tone (tinnitus), and often has trouble hearing conversations. Jackson Maine’s internal demons manifest themselves in a drink and prescription drug addiction.

The drugs that he is addicted to have been prescribed to help with his tinnitus, which periodically brings him close to anxiety attacks and temper tantrums. Maine's manager and otolaryngologist urge him to wear in-ear monitors, − custom-moulded ear plugs that block sound and allow musicians to hear their voices and instruments over loud audiences and speakers − but he refuses. Over the course of the film, the tinnitus gets worse, and Maine fails to manage it appropriately.

To coincide with the film release in the United States, the American Tinnitus Association (ATA) has been raising awareness of the condition and the extreme impact tinnitus can have on people. In seeking to depict Maine’s condition as realistically as possible, Cooper cast his own doctor, Dr. William Slattery, president of the House Ear Clinic, to play his doctor in the movie. In their press release, the ATA say that Cooper portrays with exacting detail and mirrors the reality of someone struggling with tinnitus.

David Stockdale, CEO of the British Tinnitus Association said of the depiction: "Tinnitus features in a Star is Born throughout - from when the lead character, Jackson Maine comes off stage in the first scene and hears ringing. Jackson dismisses using hearing protection - feeling it impedes his live performance. He doesn't look to address his tinnitus and hearing loss - which he has from childhood. The film gives a harrowing, raw account of the very real impact tinnitus can have."

V.A.

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