My life was a war against noise


MY HEALTH EXPERIENCE:Shaolin Chi Kung saved me from the curse of tinnitus, relates KEVIN BARRY

MY STORY begins in the Canadian city of Calgary. It was here on July 22nd, 2000 that my life took an unexpected and nasty turn as the result of a few hours spent drinking in The Back Alley nightclub.

The music in the nightclub was played at such a loud volume that on leaving the club, both my ears had ringing noises in them. A lot of people experience this phenomenon and typically it is just lasts a few hours and is gone.

Far from being temporary however, the ringing was not gone the next morning, and it wasn’t gone by the next week either. It was to stay for a long time – for the next 10 years of my life, in fact.

On my return from Canada, I went back to university in Cork where I was studying engineering. My tinnitus was getting progressively worse and I was also diagnosed with hyperacusis, which made me even more sensitive to loud noise.

By the autumn of 2001, my tinnitus/hyperacusis had become severe and life had become problematic in many ways.

First, there was the noise – day after day, night after night, year after year of permanent, non-stop, 24/7 loud ringing and hissing noises coming from inside my head. Tinnitus never leaves you because it is in you.

The second problem was not constant, but sporadic in nature. Loud noises hitting ears with severe hyperacusis is like having your tinnitus stretched further. It is difficult to describe. Perhaps one way to think of it is like having your nervous system electrocuted.

And so it follows that the third big problem was the absolute necessity of my avoiding loud noises, regardless of the social consequences. All nightclubs, loud bars, cinemas, live concerts, football stadiums and anything else that involved a lot of noise (such as using a lawnmower) were strictly off-limits to me. Needless to say, my social life became bleak under such constraints.

I had to use ear plugs every day just to cope with ordinary, everyday sounds such as traffic, TV, barking dogs, clanging plates while clearing the dinner table, airports, etc. When I was outdoors I used full earplugs, when I was indoors I used half earplugs.

My life was a war against noise, with every day being a battle. Evading noise was my full-time occupation. It was relentless. Living a life under such conditions is demoralising, depressing and very difficult.

Tinnitus and hyperacusis are so-called incurable diseases, and visits to various doctors confirmed this. So I turned to alternative medicine. I visited many different therapists over the years, from acupuncturists to pranic healers. All of them had two things in common: they never did anything for my tinnitus or hyperacusis, and they cost a small fortune. Which, of course, is not a statement on the efficacy on these therapies, or the therapists. Far from it – it’s just that they never did anything for me.

My introduction to the practice of Chi Kung (often spelt as quigong) came when a friend recommended Daniel Reid’s A Complete Guide to Chi-Gung to me. In August 2003, I went to train in Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung in Co Kerry with Joan Browne, who was to become my sifu (teacher).

And so my journey in the Shaolin arts began. I had, in my hands, the means to effect real and positive change to my health and perhaps, just perhaps, lessen the burden of tinnitus and hyperacusis. But I stopped practising. Over the next five and a half years, I returned to practise Chi Kung many times and then inexplicably stopped again.

Then, in the summer of 2009, I returned to Joan for a day of Chi Kung training and, with no great fanfare, the most amazing thing happened: my practice came together. I practised the day after the class. And the day after that. I am very happy to say that I haven’t missed a single day of practice since . . . and my life has been completely transformed.

Within two weeks of practising twice a day every day, a whole new paradigm of Chi Kung presented itself. It was no longer something I felt I should be doing: it was something I really wanted to do. It felt as natural as brushing my teeth.

Some months after starting my daily practice, I began to experience a wonderful warmth filling my inner left ear, like the sun hitting my skin, and pulses of energy around my ears.

Sometime before that Christmas, I began to feel the faint ripple of something very big. My tinnitus and hyperacusis began to shift.

Then Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit, a fourth-generation successor of Jiang Nan of the famous Southern Shaolin Monastery of China, came to Killarney for a festival of Chi Kung. At this festival, I had the most profound spiritual experience of my life. After it, my tinnitus and hyperacusis continued to diminish every day until I was totally free of both.

Over the years, I missed so many social events, but my social life is back on track now and I can enjoy pubs and nightclubs again. More importantly, I can listen to music again. Of all the things I lost through tinnitus and hyperacusis, one of the hardest to swallow was the severing of music from my life.

Chi Kung is part of my daily life now. Practising Shaolin Chi Kung generates a tremendous amount of energy in the body. It works hand in hand with the deep intuitive wisdom we all possess, which knows precisely how to use this energy for our highest good in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

It does this by letting the energy flow to wherever it is most needed, be that on the physical, emotional, mental or spiritual level.

The beauty of Shaolin Chi Kung lies in its simplicity. By practising it, we simply generate an energy flow and we let our own nature do the rest.

In conversation with MIchelle McDonagh


Tinnitus is a condition in which people experience sounds in their ears or head which do not have an external cause.

The noises may be heard as ringing, whistling, roaring, rumbling, clicking or other variations. One or both ears can be affected. The noise may be temporary, it may come and go or it can be permanent.

For more information on tinnitus and where to go for help, see


Shaolin Cosmos Chi Kung is an ancient elite art which was the choice of the emperors in China for maintaining excellent health, mental focus and quick decision-making abilities. Proponents claim this gentle art helps to generate chi or energy around the body to restore good health and happiness to each practising individual. The practice involves learning gentle movements in a chi kung or meditative state which allows the chi to move more easily through the body’s meridian system clearing stagnation.

To find out more, see