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A B S T R A C T Average sound levels and percentage of daily dose of noise expo- sure were measured in the practice rooms of a university school of music, with the primary objective of determining whether sound levels in student practice rooms were high enough to warrant concern for hearing conservation. A secon- dary objective was to determine whether any instrument group was at higher risk for music-induced hearing loss due to exposure levels. Students represent- ing 4 instrument groups were tested: brass, wind, string and voice. Measure- ments were taken using a dosimeter or DoseBadge clipped to the shoulder dur- ing 40 students' individual practice sessions. These readings provided average exposure levels as well as the percentage of total allowed exposure (dose) ob- tained during the practice session. The mean measurement time for this study was 47 minutes (SD = 22). Mean sound levels measured averaged 87-95 dB(A) (SD = 3.5-5.9). Mean average levels for the brass players were significantly higher than other instrument groups. Using the mean duration of daily practice reported by the participants to estimate dose, 48% would exceed the allowable sound exposure. Implications for professional musicians are discussed, includ- ing the need for 12-hour breaks and the use of musicians' earplugs. The im- plementation of a Hearing Protection Policy in the School of Music will also be discussed.
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Music Performance
Copyright © 2008
Royal Northern College of Music
Vol 2: 36-47
ISSN 7155-9219
Sound level measurements in music practice rooms
Susan L. Phillips and Sandra Mace
ABS T R A C T Average sound levels and percentage of daily dose of noise expo-
sure were measured in the practice rooms of a university school of music, with
the primary objective of determining whether sound levels in student practice
rooms were high enough to warrant concern for hearing conservation. A secon-
dary objective was to determine whether any instrument group was at higher
risk for music-induced hearing loss due to exposure levels. Students represent-
ing 4 instrument groups were tested: brass, wind, string and voice. Measure-
ments were taken using a dosimeter or DoseBadge clipped to the shoulder dur-
ing 40 students’ individual practice sessions. These readings provided average
exposure levels as well as the percentage of total allowed exposure (dose) ob-
tained during the practice session. The mean measurement time for this study
was 47 minutes (SD = 22). Mean sound levels measured averaged 87-95 dB(A)
(SD = 3.5-5.9). Mean average levels for the brass players were significantly
higher than other instrument groups. Using the mean duration of daily practice
reported by the participants to estimate dose, 48% would exceed the allowable
sound exposure. Implications for professional musicians are discussed, includ-
ing the need for 12-hour breaks and the use of musicians’ earplugs. The im-
plementation of a Hearing Protection Policy in the School of Music will also be
KE Y W O R D S : Music-induced hearing loss, hearing loss risk in musicians,
sound exposure levels, hearing protection
Full-time college-level music students are immersed in an intensive programme of study
toward a professional career in music. Success as a student, and subsequently, a profes-
sional, requires many hours of practice. Most undergraduate music students spend a
greater number of hours practising their instrument (both individually and in ensembles)
than was possible prior to coming to a university. Assuming the 10,000-hour hypothesis
(10,000 hours of study toward expertise) of Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Römer (1993) is
correct, a musician is likely, in the course of 10 years of study, to practise three hours per
day (at least) on average. Students spend many of these hours in relatively small practice
rooms, where exposure to high sound pressure levels may be a threat to the hearing sensi-
tivity of the student musician. Because hearing requirements for the careers of profes-
sional musicians are high, requiring accurate pitch, loudness, and timbre perception, it is
crucial that students and instructors become aware of excessive sound levels in order to
protect their hearing.
The underlying pathology in noise-induced hearing loss is damage to the inner ear. Spe-
cifically, this damage affects the outer hair cells of the organ of Corti, which are respon-
sible for the enhancement of hearing sensitivity and tuning. The outer hair cells have a
motor function that amplifies soft sounds along all frequency points in the cochlea (Kiang,
Liberman, Sewall, & Guinan, 1986). When outer hair cells are damaged, low-level sounds
are perceived as softer or not heard at all while mid and high-level sounds can be per-
ceived as loud. Outer hair cell damage also can widen cochlear auditory filters thereby
leading to a loss of frequency specificity. These alterations in auditory perception can
have deleterious effects on the perception of music. Of particular concern is the percep-
tion of timbre, which is the relationship of harmonics and overtones for a given instru-
ment. These harmonics are high frequency sounds even for a bass instrument. Although for
speech, two formants, or overtones, differentiate vowel identity, for a vocalist there is a
third formant called the singer’s formant, which falls between 2800 and 3500 Hz, and
gives professional voices “brilliance” in their tone quality. A vocalist who possesses a hear-
ing loss in the frequency range of the singer’s formant would be lacking information when
making judgments about voice quality.
Although not typically applied to education and performing arts, in the United States
industrial facilities in which employees are exposed to high sound levels are regulated by
the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA, 1983). For the purposes of this
study, criteria set out by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH,
1998) were used. NIOSH criteria were chosen because OSHA criteria are based on an “ac-
ceptable risk” of hearing loss basis, and for musicians, there is no acceptable risk. NIOSH
criteria are the more stringent and protective of the individual’s hearing sensitivity, and
are therefore considered to be “best practice” (Suter, 2000). Many of the NIOSH criteria
are based on standards of the International Standards Organization.
NIOSH exposure regulations are based on a time-intensity relationship. The amount of
time an individual can spend in a high-intensity environment depends on the sound level
of that environment. NIOSH criteria indicate that a Hearing Conservation Programme
should be established which includes annual audiometric testing, education and training
for employees in environments where they are exposed to 85 dB(A) or more over an eight
hour period. These more recent recommendations by NIOSH may be implemented by fed-
eral agencies in future regulations. The OSHA and NIOSH levels can be seen in Table 1.
Previous investigations of high sound level exposure in musicians have been restricted
to studies of professional musicians during full rehearsals or full orchestra performance.
All have recorded both average sound levels in excess of 85 dB(A), though not for eight
hour periods of time in every case (Westmore & Eversden, 1981; Royster, Royster, & Kil-
lion, 1991; Sabesky & Korczynski, 1995). Peak measurements reach sound levels much
higher 85 dB(A). For example, Chasin and Chong (1991) measured levels of 126 dB(A) at
the shoulder of a piccolo player during a relatively quiet etude. Although peak sound lev-
els are of interest to musicians, peaks are usually very limited in time, and in this study,
the effect was small enough that they will not be discussed in detail.
Table 1
NIOSH Allowable Noise Exposure Levels
Max. Exposure level in dB(A) NIOSH Recommendations
80 Begin conservation programme
85 8 hrs.
88 4 hrs.
90 2 hrs., 31 min., 11.4 sec.
91 2 hrs.
94 1 hr.
95 47 min., 37.2 sec.
97 30 min.
100 15 min.
103 7 min., 15 sec.
105 4 min., 43.47 sec.
106 3 min., 37.5 sec.
109 1 min., 48.75 sec.
110 1 min., 29.292 sec.
112 54.38 sec.
115 27 seconds
Laitenin, Toppila, Olkinuora and Kuisma (2003), taking measurements for the Finnish
Opera, found average levels across instruments to be 88-98 dB(A), while averages for solo
vocalists were 97-105 dB(A). Laitenin et al. also found that sound levels of individual re-
hearsals were often 6-20 times higher than levels during group rehearsals and perform-
ance, and were the major source of exposure for vocalists, percussionists and woodwind
players, except for the flute/piccolo players. These higher levels may be due to the
smaller size of practice rooms and also to the lack of a need to blend or match tone qual-
ity with other musicians.
Another way to look at exposure is in terms of allowable time spent at elevated sound
levels. Jansson and Karlsson (1983) evaluated sound level exposures for symphony orches-
tra musicians based on allowed exposure levels for an industrial worker for a 40-hour
working week. Results indicated that, depending upon the location of the musicians within
the orchestra, musicians received a maximum allowable exposure in 10-25 hours of work-
ing time. In this case, the allowable exposure for a 40-hour work week was experienced
after 10 hours for musicians in locations with exposure to the highest intensities and 25
hours for musicians in other positions.
One previous study examined the sound exposure of students of classical music during
full ensemble rehearsal (Backus, Clark, & Williamon, 2007). Seven of ten students had
maximum exposure levels above 85 dB(A). No study has examined the sound exposure in-
curred by students during individual practice. Only one study has looked at levels of expo-
sure incurred by professionals during individual practice, and found that it was the major
source of exposure for many professional musicians. Therefore, the present study exam-
ined sound levels produced in practice rooms by student musicians.
The purpose of the current investigation was to determine whether sound level expo-
sures in the practice rooms warranted the inclusion of a hearing protection programme
into the programme of study in the School of Music at the University of North Carolina at
Greensboro (UNCG). The primary purpose was to determine whether sound levels in the
practice rooms would exceed levels at which NIOSH would mandate such a hearing conser-
vation programme. A secondary purpose was to determine whether the type of instrument
played would identify additional risk factors for noise exposure which might be pertinent
in designing a hearing conservation programme in the School.
Fifty undergraduate student-musicians (aged 18-22) from The University of North Caro-
lina at Greensboro School of Music participated in the study. There were 10 students in
each of four instrument groups: brass (2 female, 8 male), string (5 female, 5 male),
woodwind (6 female, 4 male), percussion (4 female, 6 male) and voice (4 female, 6 male).
Participating students reported that they had played their instruments for eight to four-
teen years, with no significant differences between groups. All participants signed an in-
formed consent form prior to data collection. Participants completed a brief survey in
which questions were answered regarding instrument played, number of hours a day of
practice, and number of practice sessions per week.
Average sound levels were measured over the duration of a practice session using a
personal sound level dosimeter (Metrosonics dB-3080 or Cirrus Research ® DoseBadge CR-
100B). Both types of dosimeters used were set to calculate dose percentages based on
ISO/NIOSH recommendations. Care was taken to position the measurement instruments
such that normal posture and musical instrument position were not compromised. For
some of the practice sessions, travel between buildings on campus was required. Added
travel time may have shortened the practice sessions due to time constraints. While a few
sessions occurred at the end of the fall semester, the majority of sessions occurred during
the middle of the spring semester.
The dosimeter or DoseBadge calculated the runtime of the measurement, range (dB
SPL), the average sound level over the 80 dB(A) criterion (Lavg), the time-weighted aver-
age (TWA) levels in dB(A), and the dose for the measured time. The TWA averages the
sound over an eight-hour period. The TWA will be less than the Lavg if the measured time
period is less than eight hours. Dosimeters and DoseBadges were calibrated before each
use with the provided compatible acoustical calibrator. Comparative dosimeter and Dose-
Badge measurements found the resulting sound levels to be within two dB.
Measurements were taken using ISO/NIOSH standards which include a 3 dB exchange
rate (reducing the allowable duration of exposure for every 3 dB increase in intensity) and
slow response. Use of the slow response setting reduces the likelihood of an overestima-
tion of sound levels. Measurements of one practice session (mean length = 46.54 minutes)
were made in School of Music practice rooms, most of which measured 3.05 x 3.66 x 2.29
metres. Each practice room has seven acoustic panels on the walls, made of fabric-
covered dense foam, that measure 124 x 63.5 x 5 cm. Percussion practice rooms measured
3.35 x 3.96 x 2.28 metres with 10 acoustic panels on the walls.
The average sound level (Lavg) was computed for the total measurement time. These
average levels determine whether the ISO/NIOSH maximum safe exposure level of 85
dB(A) is reached. Dose is defined as the percentage of noise exposure measured over time,
typically eight hours, with 100% as the maximum exposure allowed for one day. For exam-
ple, 85 dB(A) for eight hours would be a 100% dose, and 88 dB(A) for eight hours would be
a 200% dose. If the measured levels vary between 85 and 88 dB(A), the dose would be be-
tween 100% and 200%. When determining the necessity of a hearing conservation pro-
gramme, individual exposure must be measured. To verify sound levels measured with
personal dosimeter systems, a Quest Model 1700 Sound Level Meter was used to measure
levels during random practice sessions in the practice rooms, using the NIOSH standard of
a slow response time and an A-weighted scale.
Survey results indicated that the mean number of years student participants had been
playing their instruments was 9.7 years, (SD 3.34 years). The number of hours of practice
per day was similar between groups with a mean of 2.3 hours. Voice majors tended to
practise less at 1.4 hours while the other groups ranged from 2.5-2.7 hours. Differences
between instrument groups on these two questions were not significant. There were sig-
nificant differences between groups on the number of individual, F(3, 29) = 4.296, p < .05,
and ensemble practice sessions F(3, 29) = 3.691, p < .05 per week. Voice students re-
ported significantly fewer individual practice sessions (4.6) than woodwind players (6.7),
and brass players reported significantly more ensemble practice sessions (4.67) than
woodwind or string players (both at 3.1).
Average measurement periods and average sound levels (Lavg) during exposure are pre-
sented in Table 2 for each instrument group. Average measured levels were 87-95.2 dB(A)
(SD = 3.5-5.9) across the instrument groups. Some students’ sound level exposure, in one
practice session, was above the allowed daily exposure. Average measured doses for these
short individual practice sessions ranged from 27.9-118.7% of the daily allowed dose. The
last column indicates the estimated dose for the mean reported hours of practice per day
for each instrument group.
Table 2
Average Sound Exposure Dosimetry Results
group Mean(SD) number of minutes
in measured period Mean Lavg
(SD) in dB(A) Mean
Measured dose Est. dose for
3 hours
Brass 38.4(10.8) 95.2(3.9) 118.7% 180%
String 47.8(24.5) 87.0(3.8) 27.9% 59.5%
Vocalist 39.3(13.1) 88.4(5.9) 30.7% 82.3%
Woodwind 62.3(29.2) 90.4(3.5) 68.1% 130.6%
Percussion 66.7(42.2) 90.1(4.7) 66.5% 121.8%
Note. Lavg: Average sound level during run. At eight hours TWA and Lavg will be equal. Dose: Per-
centage of maximum allowable exposure to noise.
An analysis of variance (ANOVA) was run on mean sound levels to determine whether
there were differences in the exposure of music students based on the type of instrument
played. The ANOVA on average sound levels, in dB(A) during exposure, demonstrated sig-
nificant differences between instrument groups, F(4, 49) = 4.87, p < .05, observed power
.937. Post hoc tests (Tukey HSD) indicated that average levels during practice were sig-
nificantly higher for the brass players when compared with levels for the string players
and vocalists (p < .01). There were also significant group differences on measured dose,
F(4, 49) = 3.5, p < .05, observed power .824. No other group differences were significant.
Post hoc Tukey HSD tests revealed significant differences in measured dose between the
brass players and string players and vocalists (all p < .05).
Dosimetry results for all instrument groups are presented in Tables 3-7. Lavg levels are
above 85 dB(A) for all brass and woodwind players. This is not true for all vocalists or
string players. The Lavg’s indicate that most of these students are exposing themselves to
levels which would mandate a hearing conservation programme if they were working in
industry. The Dose column indicates the percentage of total allowable exposure has been
met in the practice session. It is clear from Table 3 that Musician 4 reached one third of
her allowed exposure in a little less than two hours. The column furthest to the right indi-
cates what the dose level would be for a typical 2.5-hours of individual practice per day.
It must be remembered that this represents only the accumulated dose for the one meas-
ured practice session, which is not likely to be the only time the student played his or her
instrument during the day.
Musicians who would have exceeded the allowable dose played at sound pressure levels
over 90 dB(A). Of the 10 string players, data for whom are shown in Table 3, two viola
players would have exceeded the allowable dose in the mean reported hours of practice
for this group. With only one exception, all the brass players, data for whom are shown in
Table 4, would have exceeded the allowable dose in the 2.7 mean reported hours of prac-
tice for this group; five of the ten did exceed maximum exposure levels in just one indi-
vidual practice session. The specific instrument played did not necessarily predict the
level of exposure. Although the trumpet players played at uniformly high sound pressure
levels, levels for the horn and trombone players were more variable.
Table 3
Noise Dosimetry Results for String Instruments with Estimated Dose Measurements Based on Mean
Reported Practice Time for this Group
Subject # Instrument Run Time Hr.Min. Lavg dB (A) Dose % 2.5 Hr Dose %
1 Violin 0.35 87.8 13.92 59.7
2 Violin 0.35 85.5 8.21 35.1
3 Viola 0.46 84.1 7.84 25.4
4 Viola 1.51 92.9 143.35 193.9
5 Viola 0.34 90.7 26.54 116.6
6 Viola 0.51 82.5 6.00 17.5
7 Viola 0.46 88.8 23.20 75.2
8 Bass 0.22 80.5 1.69 11.1
9 Cello 0.37 88.6 30.27 71.8
10 Viola 0.59 88.9 17.66 77.0
Table 4
Noise Dosimetry Results for the Brass Group with Estimated Dose Measurements Based on Mean
Reported Practice Time for this Group
Subject # Instrument Run Time Hr.Min. Lavg dB(A) Dose % 2.7 Hr Dose %
1 Trombone 51.30 98.0 215.5 680.4
2 Trumpet 42.50 98.0 178.5 680.4
3 Trumpet 16.00 97.6 61.2 620.3
4 Horn 41.00 98.6 197.8 781.5
5 Trumpet 51.50 98.5 242.8 763.7
6 Trombone 31.82 92.3 22.5 182.3
7 Horn 33.68 90.2 23.5 112.2
8 Horn 43.00 97.5 168.4 606.1
9 Tuba 30.00 87.9 12.6 66.0
10 Trombone 43.00 93.5 63.9 240.5
Table 5
Noise Dosimetry Results for the Woodwind Group with Estimated Dose Measurements Based on Re-
ported Mean Practice Time for this Group
Subject # Instrument Run Time Hr.Min. Lavg dB(A) Dose % 2.45 Hr Dose %
1 Flute 72.15 88.6 34.60 70.4
2 Flute 102.92 95.5 240.40 346.5
3 Flute 49.00 90.6 37.20 111.7
4 Sax 43.87 88.2 19.20 64.2
5 Sax 23.43 92.0 24.60 154.3
6 Oboe 40.53 95.2 89.07 323.3
7 Clarinet 54.37 85.3 12.15 32.8
8 Flute 61.47 87.1 20.81 49.8
9 Oboe 120.00 88.3 53.59 65.7
10 Oboe 51.00 93.5 81.67 218.3
Five of the ten woodwind players, data for whom are shown in Table 5, would have ex-
ceeded the allowable dose in the 2.45 mean reported hours of practice for this group. Two
of ten vocalists, data for whom are shown in Table 6, would have exceeded the allowable
dose in the 1.4 mean reported hours of practice for this group; one baritone exceeded the
maximum allowed exposure in one practice session. Six of the ten percussionists exceeded
the maximum exposure with pianists being the least likely to do so (Table 7).
Table 6
Noise Dosimetry Results for the Vocalist Group, with Estimated Dose Measurements Based on the
Mean Reported Practice Time for this Group
Subject # Instrument Run Time Hr.Min. Lavg dB(A) Dose % 1.4 Hr Dose %
1 Soprano 50 88.3 22.14 37.5
2 Baritone 24 99.0 126.99 444.5
3 Voice 50 79.0 2.60 4.4
4 Baritone 26 85.6 6.08 20.1
5 Mezzo-
soprano 24 95.1 51.57 180.5
6 Tenor 50.5 82.7 6.20 10.3
7 Tenor 24 88.8 12.03 42.1
8 Bass 46 92.5 53.60 99.0
9 Mezzo-
soprano 52 87.0 17.20 27.8
10 Tenor 49 85.5 11.46 19.6
Table 7
Noise Dosimetry Results for Percussion instruments with Estimated Dose Measurements Based on
Mean Reported Practice Time for this Group
Subject # Instrument Run Time Hr.Min. Lavg dB(A) Dose % 2.4 Hr Dose %
1 Drumset 51.00 93.50 77.21 213.8
2 Drumset 56.00 94.60 107.21 275.7
3 Marimba 56.00 95.00 117.59 302.4
4 Marimba 185.00 91.30 165.23 128.6
5 Marimba 34.00 94.10 58.00 245.6
6 Piano 54.00 84.80 10.74 28.7
7 Piano 55.00 95.30 123.80 324.1
8 Piano 52.00 84.70 10.11 28.0
9 Piano 62.00 87.10 20.98 48.7
10 Marimba 55.00 83.50 8.10 21.2
This study was undertaken to determine if students in a university music programme
are exposed to sound levels which are high enough to warrant a hearing conservation pro-
gramme. Mean sound levels (Leq) for instrument groups in this study were 87-95 dB(A),
which clearly suggests the need for attention to hearing health. These results are compa-
rable to the mean sound level found by Royster et al. (1991), which was 89.9 dB(A), and
those of Laitenen et al. (2003), which ranged across instruments from 88-98 dB(A). Aver-
age levels for brass players were significantly higher than those of other instrumentalists
by about 5 dB. Due to the potential for damage to the auditory system and the obvious
benefits of instruction in hearing health, hearing conservation programmes are suggested
for higher education music programmes.
Sound level measurements only tell part of the story. The amount of time spent prac-
ticing at these levels is crucial to an understanding of the risk involved to hearing. Partici-
pants in this study indicated that they spend an average of 1.4 hours (for vocalists) to 2.7
hours (brass players) per day in individual practice, and that they practice on their own
between 4.6 and 6.7 times per week. In addition, they reported rehearsing within ensem-
bles an average of 3.1 to 4.7 times per week. Trombone player #1, who had an Lavg or 98
dB(A), reported that he practises individually for 3 hours per day seven days per week. He
reported also that he practises in an ensemble five days per week. If ensemble sound lev-
els are similar to those of his individual practice sessions, and last approximately one
hour, then in a four-hour practice day (including ensemble practice) he would accumulate
over 10 times more than the allowed sound exposure, or dose. With similar estimations,
nine out of ten brass players, two out of ten string players, two out of ten vocalists, five
out of ten woodwind players, and four out of ten percussionists would have exceeded their
allowed daily dose with one individual practice session and one ensemble practice session.
Some of these students did not have ensemble practice every day, which gave their audi-
tory systems a much-needed break.
Laitinen et al. (2003) reported that the average professional musician plays an average
of 5.5 hours per day. A student musician may practise alone for 2.5 hours per day in addi-
tion to playing in one or two ensembles each day for another 2-3 hours. However, when
rehearsing for a major opera production, additional evening rehearsal time may be five
hours per day for several weeks. Fearn (1993) reports that student musicians practise 10-
35 hours per week during the school year and additionally perform in orchestras for 2-3
hours 56 times per year. One concern Fearn raises is that students practise throughout the
day with short breaks, which does not allow for the 12 hours of rest from noise exposure
required to reduce temporary threshold shift (NIOSH, 1998).
Measurement of only one practice session is a limitation of this study. Another potential
limitation is the brevity of some of the measured practice sessions. It may be that a short
practice session allows for greater sound levels without endurance difficulties. If that
were true, then sound levels may have been higher for shorter sessions than they might be
for longer sessions. Two examples can be seen in two of the vocalists in Table 6, where
sound levels were high and practice times short (24 minutes). However, several of the
brass players, as well as one or more of the string and woodwind players also have high
sound level averages with longer practice sessions.
Does exposure to these high sound levels cause hearing loss in musicians? According to
Hart, Geltman, Schupbach, and Santucci (1987), 52% of classical musicians exhibit a hear-
ing loss. These findings suggest that permanent hearing loss is greater among classical mu-
sicians than pop/rock musicians, which is only 37% even after 25 or more years of playing
(Axelsson, Eliasson, & Israelsson, 1995). The lower incidence among rock musicians may be
due to several factors, including the low-frequency emphasis of the music, the absorption
of sound by the crowds of people listening, and the amount of time spent in practice.
Classical musicians often play 5-10 hours per day, including individual practice, ensemble
practice and teaching, while rock musicians may only play on weekends (Shafer, 2006).
Permanent hearing loss has also been found in classical musicians by several other in-
vestigators (Axelsson & Lindgren, 1981; Westmore & Eversden, 1981; Karlsson, Lundquist,
& Olaussen, 1983; Ostri, Eller, Dahlin, & Skylv, 1989; Royster, Royster, & Killion, 1991).
Kahari, Axelsson, Hellstrom, and Zachau (2001) found that the noise notches typically
found with noise exposure occurred in orchestral musicians at 6000 Hz, but were not out-
side normal limits. Noise notches are a decrease in sensitivity related to noise exposure
that occurs between 3000-6000 Hz. There is some dissent among these researchers about
whether the losses incurred can be interpreted as being outside the expectations for nor-
mal aging. It is noted that the results of these studies are similar; however, the interpre-
tations tend to vary.
In another study that involved music students, Fearn (1993) reported that one third of
student orchestral musicians had elevated thresholds, 75% of which were at 6000 Hz, with
half of all hearing losses in one ear only. Fifty percent of student musicians on this campus
of the current study demonstrated notches in their hearing sensitivity at 6000 Hz, with the
majority in one ear only (Phillips, Shoemaker, Mace, & Hodges, 2008). Fearn contrasts this
with the 54.5% of orchestral musicians over the age of 30 who demonstrated a decrease in
hearing at 6000 Hz.
Each musician is affected by sound exposure differently with regard to variables such as
instrument type, age, seating position in the orchestra, the music played and overall
length of time playing (Royster, Royster, & Killion, 1991). Woodwind and brass players
have been shown to be at most risk for hearing loss (Westmore & Eversden, 1981; McBride,
Gill, Proops, Harrington, Gardiner, & Attwell, 1992). Unilateral hearing loss has been
documented in the left ear of violinists (Axelsson & Lindgren, 1981) and double-bass play-
ers (Karlsson, Lundquist, & Olaussen, 1983). The right ear of violinists is protected by the
“shadow” of the head and also by being farther from the sound source. It is therefore im-
portant to compare sound level exposure by instrument type.
All previous studies of hearing in musicians have been conducted as cross-sectional
studies. The authors are currently conducting a longitudinal study of student musicians’
hearing over the course of their four-year programme of study. Other areas for future
study include real ear measurements of sound levels at the tympanic membrane, with and
without musician’s earplugs, to determine whether body-conducted sound is a contribut-
ing factor in musicians who create their music orally. Comparing frequency resolution
among musicians with and without demonstrated high frequency loss is also an area of in-
Additional measurements of sound levels during student ensemble practice and per-
formance are also needed. Position of musicians within the orchestra vastly changes their
level of exposure. Levels are highest in front of the brass instruments and near the percus-
sion instruments. Musicians in these positions include woodwinds, second violins, violas
and cellos. Brass players may receive high levels of exposure from their position relative
to other brass and percussion as well. It is also important to measure exposure levels for
conductors of the various ensembles. Long-term dosimeter studies are indicated.
All music students who participated in this study, regardless of instrument group, are at
risk of experiencing sound levels that exceeded maximum permissible exposure levels as
regulated by the NIOSH 1998 standard. If these musicians were working in industry and ex-
posed to these levels for eight hours a day they would mandatorily be enrolled in a hear-
ing conservation programme. As it stands, with the number of hours of reported individual
practice at these levels, 48% exceeded allowed exposure levels. It is important to note
that students also report participating in ensemble rehearsals, which increase sound level
exposure. Since hearing requirements for the career of professional musician are high, it is
crucial that university level music programmes provide instruction to their students on
how to protect their hearing.
The hearing conservation programme as recommended by NIOSH would require the in-
clusion of five components: environmental noise measurements of all practice and per-
formance spaces, audiometric testing of hearing for all students on an annual basis, intro-
duction to and instruction in the use of hearing protectors, education and training, and
record keeping. Routine audiometry can help specialists indicate which musicians are ex-
periencing hearing loss, and environments in which continued measurements of sound lev-
els are necessary.
Any student identified with a high frequency hearing loss should be required to wear
hearing protection designed for musicians, which provides an even attenuation across the
frequency range. Objections to wearing earplugs should be addressed by outlining the dif-
ferences between traditional foam earplugs and musicians’ plugs, emphasizing the need to
protect hearing as a crucial part of their musical skill. Proper insertion is critical for
maximal protection as well as reduction of the plugged-up sensation called the occlusion
effect, and should be carefully practised during training sessions. The cost of musicians’
earplugs ranges from minimal for the non-custom ETYPlugs/HI-FI (Killion, Stewart, Falco,
& Berger, 1992) to a cost similar to that of a textbook for custom earplugs. Earplugs could
be considered a required expense for performance studio classes or large ensembles. The
acoustic environment of the practice rooms deserves considerable attention in terms of
acoustic absorption materials on walls, ceilings and floors. This is particularly important in
small practice rooms.
The education and training portion of the hearing conservation programme should in-
clude an accurate description of the group’s noise exposures, the group’s hearing test re-
sults, the use, care and fitting of a variety of hearing protection devices designed for mu-
sicians, and any engineering controls which have been put in place or are planned for the
future. Students should be taught the value of down-time from exposure to loud music,
ideally 24-48 hours, but a minimum of 12 hours. Although music students are typically in-
troduced to the concepts of acoustics and psychoacoustics, they would also benefit from a
basic knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of hearing, and from understanding what
happens to these anatomical structures during noise exposure. An additional segment on
how these changes in physiology could result in hearing loss and tinnitus would motivate
them to be more aware of their listening environment and to understand the importance
of hearing protection. As part of the Hearing Protection Policy, such educational training
would occur yearly. Students should be encouraged to avoid outside exposures to noise as
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The authors are grateful to Patricia Sink for her advice and help in
the UNCG School of Music, and to Quest Electronics for the loan of the dosimeters.
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SUSAN L. PHILLIPS is a professor of audiology in the Department of Communication Sci-
ences and Disorders and a member of the Music Research Institute at the University of
North Carolina at Greensboro. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Maryland at Col-
lege Park. Her research addresses factors associated with hearing loss in musicians, includ-
ing genetic susceptibility and gene-environment interactions.
SANDRA MACE is Programme Coordinator for the Music Research Institute at the University
of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is a certified Hearing Conservationist with the Occu-
pational Safety and Health Administration. Her research addresses sound level exposures
in musicians, music faculty, ensembles and ensemble directors. She earned her Ph.D. at
the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
... Abstract: Objectives: (1) To measure sound exposures of marching band and non-marching band students during a football game, (2) to compare these to sound level dose limits set by NIOSH,and (3) to assess the perceptions of marching band students about their hearing health risk from loud sound exposure and their use of hearing protection devices (HPDs). Methods: Personal noise dosimetry was completed on six marching band members and the band director during rehearsals and performances. ...
... High sound exposure among collegiate student musicians can exceed the recommended exposure limits specified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health [1] on a daily basis [2][3][4][5][6][7][8]. Most of the hazardous sound exposure among these musicians occurs during rehearsals, individual practice, and other music activities [2,4,5,7]. ...
... Considering the popularity of marching band and drum corps-particularly in high schools and universities-and the dearth of research on sound exposure and hearing health-related knowledge among marching band members, it is important to examine the sound exposure levels experienced by this type of musician during the performances, as well as their perception of hearing health risk. The purposes of this study were (1) to measure sound exposure of marching band and non-marching band students during a football game, (2) to compare these to sound level dose limits set by NIOSH, and (3) to assess the perceptions of marching band students about their hearing health risk from loud sound exposure and their use of hearing protection. ...
Full-text available
Objectives: (1) To measure sound exposures of marching band and non-marching band students during a football game, (2) to compare these to sound level dose limits set by NIOSH, and (3) to assess the perceptions of marching band students about their hearing health risk from loud sound exposure and their use of hearing protection devices (HPDs). Methods: Personal noise dosimetry was completed on six marching band members and the band director during rehearsals and performances. Dosimetry measurements for two audience members were collected during the performances. Noise dose values were calculated using NIOSH criteria. One hundred twenty-three marching band members responded to a questionnaire analyzing perceptions of loud music exposure, the associated hearing health risks, and preventive behavior. Results: Noise dose values exceeded the NIOSH recommended limits among all six marching band members during rehearsals and performances. Higher sound levels were recorded during performances compared to rehearsals. The audience members were not exposed to hazardous levels. Most marching band members reported low concern for health effects from high sound exposure and minimal use of HPDs. Conclusion: High sound exposure and low concern regarding hearing health among marching band members reflect the need for comprehensive hearing conservation programs for this population.
... Recent studies have included measuring sound pressure levels (SPL) and/or administering audiometric tests with professional classical instrumentalists and classical instrumental music students in performance, rehearsal, or practice. 26,[31][32][33][34][35][36] Other recent studies have included music teachers in schools and universities 5,9,21,30,37 and some of these have focused primarily on vocalists and vocal ensembles. 10,[38][39][40][41] Studies of music instructors that include voice instructors report audiometric evaluations and noise measurements. ...
... 10,37,42 Overall, studies that investigate the audiologic status of musicians support the hypothesis that a musician's working environment may contribute to greater hearing loss than the general nonmusician public or study control groups. 10,36,39 Isaac et al 10 reported that when controlling for age, years as a voice teacher is a statistically significant predictor of high frequency hearing loss. Other studies have found that most music teachers are exposed to excessive sound levels during their teaching periods, but it is undetermined whether these levels are at or above the Recommended Exposure Limit and what impact this may have. ...
... It has been recommended that future studies integrate measurements that include reverberation times, background noise of the classrooms, and voice use and hearing assessments, to capture a more complete understanding of the occupational environment. 9,30,36,43 The aim of this study is to provide an objectively informed representation of voice teachers' working environment, which research has shown may affect changes in voice and hearing. An additional goal of this study is to communicate the status of these parameters so that teachers can make informed decisions about improving their environment and conserving their health. ...
Purpose Vocal instructors during their normal workday are exposed to high noise levels that can affect their voice and hearing health. The goal of this study was to evaluate the voice and hearing status of voice instructors before and after lessons and relate these evaluations with voice and noise dosimetry taken during lessons. Methods Eight voice instructors volunteered to participate in the study. The protocol included (1) questionnaires, (2) pre/post assessment of voice quality and hearing status, and (3) voice and noise dosimetry during lessons. Acoustic measurements were taken of the unoccupied classrooms. Results In six of eight classrooms, the measured noise level was higher than the safety recommendations set by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The background noise level and the reverberation time in the classrooms were in compliance with the national standard recommendations. We did not find a clear pattern comparing pre- and post-measurements of voice quality consistent among genders. In all subjects, the Sound Pressure Levels mean increased, and the standard deviation of fundamental frequency decreased indicating association to vocal fatigue. Previous studies link these changes to increasing vocal fatigue. The audiometric results revealed seven out of eight instructors have sensorineural hearing loss. Conclusions The interaction of the acoustic space and noise levels can contribute to the development of hearing and voice disorders for voice instructors. If supported by larger sample size, the results of this pilot study could justify the need for a hearing and voice conservation program for music faculty.
... However, some studies provide evidence that students of academies of music, similarly to professional musicians, are often exposed to sound at high levels (above 85 dBA) creating a risk of hearing impairment [15][16][17][18]. This is demonstrated both by the results of sound pressure level measurements during individual and collective classes and the attempts to evaluate the daily exposure based on fullday measurements using noise dosimeters, involving a typical schedule of students' classes [19][20][21]. ...
... In turn, Phillips and Mace [19] measured sound pressure levels (SPLs) among music students during individual classes in specially prepared rooms and found that singers and brass, wind and string players were exposed to averaged sound pressure levels of 87-95 dB-whereas, according to the data collected in this study the A-weighted equivalent continuous sound pressure levels during individual playing remained in the range from 81 to 98 dB (10-90th percentile range). ...
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The objective of this study was to assess the hearing of music students in relation to their exposure to excessive sounds. A standard pure-tone audiometry, transient-evoked otoacoustic emissions (TEOAEs) and distortion-product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs) were determined in 163 students of music academies, aged 22.8 ± 2.6 years. A questionnaire survey and sound pressure level measurements during solo and group playing were also conducted. The control group comprised 67 subjects, mainly non-music students, aged 22.8 ± 3.3 years. Study subjects were exposed to sounds at the A-weighted weekly noise exposure level (LEX,w) from 75 to 106 dB. There were no significant differences in the hearing thresholds between groups in the frequency range of 4000–8000 Hz. However, music students compared to control group exhibited lower values of DPOAE amplitude (at 6000 and 7984 Hz) and signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) (at 984, 6000, and 7984 Hz) as well as SNR of TEOAE (in 1000 Hz band). A significant impact of noise exposure level, type of instrument, and gender on some parameters of measured otoacoustic emissions was observed. In particular, music students having LEX,w ³ 84.9 dB, compared to those with LEX,w < 84.9 dB, achieved significantly lower DPOAE amplitude at 3984 Hz. Meanwhile, both TEOAE and DPOAE results indicated worse hearing in students playing percussion instruments vs. wind instruments, and wind instrument players vs. students playing stringed instruments.
... The American National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health [7] and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety [8] recommend no more than eight-hours' exposure at 85dB(A) and they suggest that for every increase of three dB, the time limit for exposure be reduced by half [9]. Sound exposure measurements in musicians have confirmed levels over 85 dBA, either in the sound level produced by specific musical instruments or by the orchestra [10][11][12][13][14][15][16]. These studies have concluded that musicians are at risk for hearing loss due to the potentially noxious levels of sound exposure present in their working environment. ...
... These results are consistent with studies such as Schmidt and colleagues [6], which found no asymmetrical hearing losses. However, other studies have shown that asymmetrical hearing loss is common, usually with more loss in the left ear [14,49,50]. Many studies with musicians have found a link between this asymmetry and the instrument played: larger hearing loss in the left ear were found with violinists [23, 42-44, 51, 52], while larger hearing loss of the right ear was found among flautists [20,44], French horn players [20] and piccolo players [51]. ...
This study examined the hearing sensitivity of university music students (N = 53) and a control group (N = 54) between the ages of 17 and 31. The two groups were compared for differences in hearing threshold levels, incidence of hearing loss described by pure-tone average levels, and incidences of notches at 3, 4 or 6 kHz. Survey data were also used to explore relationships between hearing sensitivity and gender, age, music lesson starting age, musical instruments played, number of years playing that instrument, instrument type, use of hearing protection and personal music device listening time. No significant differences in hearing threshold levels between the two groups was found. Overall prevalence of notches was 1.9% for music students versus 9.3% for the control group using the Niskar (2001) algorithm, or 20.8% for music students versus 31.5% for controls using the Coles (2000) algorithm. Both algorithms identified more controls with notches, although the difference between the two groups was not significant. Music students who use hearing protection had significantly more incidences of notches, and there was a weak correlation found between hearing sensitivity and age. The other survey parameters studied showed very little or no relationship with hearing sensitivity. The results do not show any increased incidence of hearing loss among university music students as compared to a control group. However this does not imply that music students are not at risk of hearing loss. It is possible that the measurement tools were not sufficiently sensitive to detect early stages of hearing loss or that the effect of the exposure to music instrument playing will manifest itself a few years later.
... A large body of research has been devoted to the measurement of sound levels encountered during performances, rehearsals and individual music practice, (e.g. 8, [14][15][16][17][18][19]. The reports show that the levels are usually highest for brass instruments (85-105 dB), woodwinds (85-95 dB), and percussion (90-95 dB). ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The sound exposure doses of musicians may significantly differ depending on the ensemble, repertoire and the intensity of their daily professional activity. In solo performance the sound levels are often asymmetric between the two ears, which mostly results from the directional characteristics of the instrument's sound radiation, with only a small effect of reverberation, as the player is exposed to the instrument's sound in the near field. In ensemble playing the sound of all the other instruments is usually the main factor influencing the sound exposure dose. In this study a two-channel noise dosimetry was used to assess the sound exposure doses in the left and in the right ear of music students. The measurements were conducted during rehearsals of chamber music ensembles, symphonic and wind instrument orchestras, big-band, and during individual practicing. The results show an interaural asymmetry in sound level, up to about 6 dB, in musicians playing instruments held asymmetrically to the player's head and in cases when the musicians were exposed to intense sound of the neighboring instruments. It also was observed that the spread of sound levels was larger during individual practicing (78-105 dBA) than in large ensembles (79-99 dBA).
... These regulations do not apply to music students, however, as they are not classed as employees (Shepheard et al. 2020). Yet music students may be particularly vulnerable to hearing damage as they progress through a period of intensive musical training and exposure, including personal practice, rehearsals and performances that are independent of their timetabled course of study (Phillips and Mace 2008;Tufts and Skoe 2018;Washnik, Phillips, and Teglas 2016). It has also been proposed that sound levels produced by student ensembles may be higher than professional ensembles because their technical skills are less well developed (Health and Safety Executive 2008). ...
Full-text available
Objective: The current study aimed to: i) determine the patterns of hearing protection device (HPD) use in early-career musicians, ii) identify barriers to and facilitators of HPD use, and iii) use the Behaviour Change Wheel (BCW) to develop an intervention to increase uptake and sustained use of HPDs. Design: A mixed-methods approach using questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. Study sample: Eighty early-career musicians (age range = 18-26 years; women n = 39), across all categories of musical instrument. Results: 42.5% percent of participants reported using HPDs at least once a week, 35% less than once a week, and 22.5% reported never using HPDs for music-related activities. Six barriers and four facilitators of HPD use were identified. Barriers include the impact of HPDs on listening to music and performing, and a lack of concern about noise exposure. Barriers/facilitators were mapped onto the Theoretical Domains Framework. Following the systematic process of the BCW, our proposed intervention strategies are based on 'Environmental Restructuring', such as providing prompts to increase awareness of noisy settings, and 'Persuasion/Modelling', such as providing credible role models. Conclusions: For the first time, the present study demonstrates the use of the BCW for designing interventions in the context of hearing conservation.
... Sound pressure can also be harmful during individual practice or practical studies (Phillips and Mace, 2008;McIlwaine et al., 2012;Washnik et al., 2016). Specifically for classical instruments, the estimated average exposure for daily practice can vary from 68 to 92 dB(a) (O'Brien et al., 2013a). ...
The World Hearing Center in Poland has a long history with teleaudiology, cochlear implants, and, more recently, hearing, vision, and speech testing. The efforts of multinational European working groups have resulted in a number of consensus statements providing a catalyst for hearing screening in children of all ages. These statements have also emphasized the use of modern technologies including teleaudiology as a means to provide the best access of hearing healthcare for children with hearing deficits. The World Hearing Center in Warsaw has developed the System of Integrated Communication Operations telehealth platform (for hearing, speech, and vision testing) and has used this platform to screen more than 1,000,000 children to date.
... Noise levels during school marching band rehearsals regularly exceed 100 dBA [24] and students may be exposed to these sound levels for hours at a time. University music students are exposed to sound levels that average 87-95 dBA with brass players averaging 5 dB higher levels, and 48% (n = 50) exceeding the 1998 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommended duration for their level of sound exposure [25,26]. Ten orchestra students were found to have statistically significant bilateral notches at 6,000 Hz, indicative of NIHL. ...
Objective: This study was aimed at determining the risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) in middle school band (MSB) and high school band (HSB) members. Method: Between-group comparison of hearing thresholds. Eleven MSB members and 6 MSNB controls, 20 HSB members and 5 HSNB controls. Results: Sixty-four percent of school-age band members presented with 15 dB HL or greater notch at 4,000 or 6,000 Hz in at least one ear. The high school students were slightly more likely to present with a notch. Conclusions: Results indicate that participation in band even as early as middle school increases the risk of developing NIHL, and that the longer the participation the higher the risk. Steps to insure hearing preservation in school-age band members are recommended.
This chapter focuses on the hearing assessment of musicians as well as how to recommend and specify the exact parameters for hearing aid amplification for hard-of-hearing people who either play musical instruments or merely like to listen to music. Much of this is based on the differences between the acoustic features of music and of speech. Music is typically listened to, or played at, a higher sound level than speech and there are some spectral and temporal differences between music and speech that have implications for differing electro-acoustic hearing-aid technologies for the two types of input. This involves a discussion of some hearing aid technologies best suited to amplified music as well as some clinical strategies for the hearing health care professional to optimize hearing aids for music as an input.
Objective: To examine the contribution of all daily activities, including non-music activities, to the overall noise exposure of college student musicians, and to compare their "noise lives" with those of non-musician college students. Design: Continuous week-long dosimetry measurements were collected on student musicians and non-musicians. During the measurement period, participants recorded their daily activities in journals. Study sample: 22 musicians and 40 non-musicians, all students (aged 18-24 years) at the University of Connecticut. Results: On every day of the week, musicians experienced significantly higher average exposure levels than did non-musicians. Nearly half (47%) of the musicians' days exceeded a daily dose of 100%, compared with 10% of the non-musicians' days. When the exposure due to music activities was removed, musicians still led noisier lives, largely due to participation in noisier social activities. For some musicians, non-music activities contributed a larger share of their total weekly noise exposure than did their music activities. Conclusions: Compared with their non-musician peers, college student musicians are at higher risk for noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). On a weekly basis, non-music activities may pose a greater risk to some musicians than music activities. Thus, hearing health education for musicians should include information about the contribution of lifestyle factors outside of music to NIHL risk.
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Hearing threshold and survey data collected over 3 years in a university school of music indicate that 52% of undergraduate music students show declines in high-frequency hearing at 6000 Hz consistent with acoustic overexposure. Declines at 4000 Hz have grown in number over the 3 years, from 2% the first year to 30% in the third year. These "noise notches" are seen in all instrument groups, including voice, and are seen more in the right ear than the left ear in all groups. Exposure to outside noise does not appear to be a determining factor in who develops these declines. It is concluded that genetic predisposition is a likely risk factor.
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The theoretical framework presented in this article explains expert performance as the end result of individuals' prolonged efforts to improve performance while negotiating motivational and external constraints. In most domains of expertise, individuals begin in their childhood a regimen of effortful activities (deliberate practice) designed to optimize improvement. Individual differences, even among elite performers, are closely related to assessed amounts of deliberate practice. Many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of intense practice extended for a minimum of 10 yrs. Analysis of expert performance provides unique evidence on the potential and limits of extreme environmental adaptation and learning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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To test the hypothesis that noise exposure may cause hearing loss in classical musicians. Comparison of hearing levels between two risk groups identified during the study by measuring sound levels. Symphony orchestra and occupational health department in the west Midlands. Hearing level as measured by clinical pure tone audiometry. Trumpet and piccolo players received a noise dose of 160% and 124%, respectively, over mean levels during part of the study. Comparison of the hearing levels of 18 woodwind and brass musicians with 18 string musicians matched for age and sex did not show a significant difference in hearing, the mean difference in the hearing levels at the high (2, 4, and 8 KHz) audiometric frequencies being 1.02 dB (95% confidence interval -2.39 to 4.43). This study showed that there is a potential for occupational hearing loss in classical orchestral musicians.
The theoretical framework presented in this article explains expert performance as the end result of individuals' prolonged efforts to improve performance while negotiating motivational and external constraints. In most domains of expertise, individuals begin in their childhood a regimen of effortful activities (deliberate practice) designed to optimize improvement. Individual differences, even among elite performers, are closely related to assessed amounts of deliberate practice. Many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of intense practice extended for a minimum of 10 years. Analysis of expert performance provides unique evidence on the potential and limits of extreme environmental adaptation and learning.
In recent years studies on isolated hair cells have suggested that there is an inherent tuning of hair cells determined by their mechanical and electrical properties. However, tuning for mammalian cochleas appears to be much more complicated since there are typically two types of receptor cells (inner and outer hair cells) imbedded in a highly organized framework of supporting cells, membranes and fluids. The major neural output of the cochlea can be monitored by recording the activity of myelinated axons of spiral ganglion cells, not only under normal conditions, but also when the discharge patterns are altered by ototoxic drugs, acoustic trauma or olivocochlear bundle stimulation. A model system with two excitatory influences, one sharply tuned and highly sensitive, and a second, broadly tuned and relatively insensitive, can account for much of the existing data. Results from single-neuron marking studies support the notion that these two influences probably involve interactions between inner and outer hair cells. More global influences such as the endocochlear potential also can act on auditory-nerve fibers through the hair-cell systems. Thus, the inherent frequency selectivity of the receptor cell is only one of many factors that determine the tuning of mammalian auditory-nerve fibers.
Personal noise exposures of classical musicians in the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Centennial Concert Hall, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, were conducted to determine compliance with provincial standards. In Manitoba, a hearing conservation program is required where the equivalent sound exposure level (Lex 8-hour) exceeds 80 dB A-weighted sound pressure level [dB(A)]. In excess of 85 and 90 dB(A), standards require hearing protection and engineering or work practice controls. Approximately 10 percent of the musicians wore conventional or custom-molded earplugs. Dosimetry readings were taken in the rehearsal room, main stage, and orchestra pit during rehearsals and dress rehearsals. Quest model M-8B and Larson Davis model 700 dosimeters were used and the Canadian Standards Association procedure was applied. The mean Lex 8-hour for the rehearsal room surveys were 88 and 90 dB(A), for the pit were 85 and 86 dB(A), and for the main stage were 82, 84, and 88 dB(A). Instantaneous peak exposures were recorded in excess of 140 dB(A). Individual noise exposure data indicated that the musicians' Lex 8-hour decreased with distance from the woodwind and brass sections. Neither the playing environments (stage, pit, rehearsal room) nor the musical repertoire resulted in an appreciable difference in the mean Lex 8-hour exposure in a fully complemented orchestra. Noise exposures for musicians of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra were in excess of all three Manitoba standards.