Noise induced hearing loss is caused by exposure to loud sounds over an extended period of time. Working in construction or at a night club can put your ears at risk, but did you ever think about the dangerous environment for musicians playing in an orchestra?
Study on the Loudest Instruments
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Sydney and the University of Queensland looked to identify the instrument that posed the greatest risk of causing hearing loss.
The results were published in 2013 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. They looked at 143 professional French horn players. The musicians who were 40 and younger had an 18 to 33 percent change of developing noise-induced hearing loss. And only 18 percent of those professional musicians wore any type of hearing protection.
These results are surprising. Wayne Wilson, the lead investigator and audiology professor at the University of Queensland explained, “Even within that 18 percent, the use of hearing protection appears to be inadequate with 81 percent of these participants reporting their frequency of use as ‘sometimes’ and 50 percent reporting they use generic, foam or other inferior forms of protection.”
Even when age is considered, there is still a significant effect on hearing from exposure to sound. This tells the researchers that it is crucial for orchestra members to start wearing hearing protection. According to Ian O’Brian, a professional French horn player and doctoral researcher at the University of Sydney, “Our findings also reinforce the need to educate horn players, their mentors and audiologists about the need to protect hearing and how best to achieve this while still enabling musicians to play to the highest level.”
Hearing loss should be taken seriously, especially by musicians. “Even mild hearing loss can result in difficulties discriminating pitch, abnormal loudness growth and tinnitus, all of which can affect a musician’s ability to perform, subsequently jeopardizing his or her livelihood,” explained O’Brian.
Beyond the French Horn
While the French horn may be the loudest instrument, it is by no means the only one that produces dangerously loud sounds. Below is a list of common instruments and their decibel outputs when played at their loudest:
- Trombone: 85 to 114 db
- Flute: 85 to 111 db
- Cello: 82 to 92 db
- Clarinet: 92 to 103 db
- Piano (normal practice): 60 to 70 db
- Piano (fortissimo): 84 to 103 db
- Oboe: 90 to 94 db
Fortunately, you do not need to choose between your love of playing music and keeping your hearing intact. Hearing protection in the form of high quality, custom-made earplugs can keep your ears safe while playing.
To learn more about hearing protection or to schedule an appointment, contact the experts at Hearing & Balance Center at Charleston ENT today.