Picture a rock and roll concert, with music blaring out of giant speakers on stage. Now imagine a sophisticated symphony performance. Which group of musicians would be more likely to suffer hearing loss? Surprisingly, it’s classical musicians who may be most at risk, according to an expert at Baylor College of Medicine.
“We don’t generally think of musicians as being at risk for hearing loss,” said Ross Tonini, AuD, an audiologist at Baylor. “Generally, it’s assumed that rock and rollers are at greater risk for hearing loss, but it’s actually classical musicians that have higher rates of noise-induced hearing loss.”
Tonini explains that, whether they are in a symphonic orchestra or a marching band, trained musicians over time may begin to suffer from noise-induced hearing loss caused by close proximity to loud instruments. Loud music from almost any part of the orchestra or brass band can cause hearing loss. Increased tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, which may be associated with hearing loss, is reported as a significant occupational hazard for professional musicians, according to Tonini.
“One thing that destroys our hearing is prolonged exposure to loud sound,” said Tonini. He suggested that if musicians can limit loud music exposure by rehearsing with softer music in rehearsals, this may be a way to give the ears a rest.
Hearing protection such as earplugs made especially for musicians are recommended for those who participate in a band or symphony. Musicians earplugs can filter sound so that musicians are able to hear their music without it being muffled or distorted, yet they are protected from potential damage.
Hearing loss can occur when musicians first start out through participation in band or orchestra in middle school and high school. Tonini suggests that music directors and music teaching professionals should be more aware of their musicians’ hearing risks and encourage their musicians to wear hearing protection and have their hearing screened.
“From an audiology point of view, we need to be more involved in working with the public schools to provide awareness, and musicians must be mindful that they are at risk for hearing loss,” said Tonini. “Noise induced hearing loss from music is something that is completely preventable. No musician wants to lose their ability to make music [due to the fact that] they have lost the ability to hear the music.”
Source: Baylor College of Medicine
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