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Hearing Loss in Professional Musicians: A Necessary Evil?

According to a recent report, musicians are 4 times more likely to suffer from hearing loss than the general population.

Study Reveals Alarming Incidence of Hearing Loss in the Music Industry

 

Large entertainment venueThe risk of hearing loss in the music industry has long been recognised. However, it was only in recent years that a study in the British Medical Journal revealed the true scale of hearing loss amongst professional musicians. According to these shock findings, musicians are almost four times more likely to suffer noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) than those in the general population. They are also 57% more likely to be affected by tinnitus.

Awareness of the health risks associated with occupational noise has been on the rise in recent years, led by EU legislation introduced in the 2005 Control of Noise at Work Regulations. The Regulations have helped ensure that companies across many sectors are taking an active role in preventing NIHL in the workplace. However, they weren’t enforced for the entertainment industry until 2008.

Unlike noise in other sectors such as construction, manufacturing and engineering, noise in music and entertainment is considered desirable; a necessary evil, in fact. If the whole point of the occupation is to deliberately make sound, it becomes rather more difficult to alleviate the effects of noise. To complicate matters further, the entertainment industry is very diverse, often with a transient workforce and perhaps more complex noise issues and problems than other industries.

Preventing Hearing Loss in Professional Musicians

Whether it’s a DJ, rock band or classical orchestra, rehearsing and performing in a studio, nightclub or concert hall, the first step in preventing hearing loss in professional musicians is to get an idea of their noise exposure. This should be assessed by a suitably qualified individual (e.g. a health and safety manager or noise consultant) using a Class 1 or 2 sound level meter that is compliant with international standards (IEC 61672).  Exposure to sound can also be calculated by wearing a personal noise dosemeter for a suitable period of time.

More information on entertainment noise monitoring can be found here.

For professional musicians who are regularly being exposed to noise levels exceeding 80 – 85dB(A), further action is required in order to minimise the risk of NIHL. Typical measures include:

  • Reduction of noise at source – e.g. turning down amplifiers; installing acoustic dampening equipment in rehearsal rooms
  • Hearing protection – wearing / providing custom-moulded ear plugs
  • Education and raising awareness – e.g. warning signs; training for musicians; liaison between noise consultants and conductors / sound engineers
  • Reduction of exposure – e.g. more regular breaks at practices; shorter sets at gigs
  • Regular hearing tests for all professional musicians

Further guidance on how to control noise in the music industry is available on the excellent Sound Advice website.

If you want more information and advice on how to prevent and control hearing loss in professional musicians, or wish to purchase a compliant sound meter that is suitable for entertainment noise monitoring applications, call Pulsar Instruments team on 01723 518011.

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