One of the most common causes of hearing loss is exposure to noise. This comes from working in construction, hunting and attending live sporting events. But did you ever think about the dangers lurking in an orchestra pit?
According to researchers in Australia, playing an instrument can be damaging to your hearing.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
Sounds are measured in decibels (dB). Anything over 85 dB can damage the delicate hair cells within the inner ear after an extended period of time. This is known as noise induced hearing loss.
Below is a list of average decibel ratings of familiar sounds put together by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders:
- 60-70 dB: normal conversation
- 74-104 dB: movie theater
- 80-110 dB: motorcycles and dirt bikes
- 94-110 dB: sporting events and concerts
- 110-129 dB: sirens
- 140-160 dB: fireworks
French Horn and Hearing Loss
Researchers from the University of Sydney and the University of Queensland determined that the French horn puts musicians at the greatest risk of noise induced hearing loss.
The 2013 study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene looked at 143 professional French horn players. They determined:
- There was an 18 to 33 percent chance of noise induced hearing loss in players under the age of 40.
- Only 18 percent of players wore hearing protection.
According to Wayne Wilson, the lead investigator of the study, “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.”
Ian O’Brian is both a professional French horn player and a doctoral student at the University of Sydney. He explains, “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.” He goes on to point out that “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.”
The results of this study are important because they show the significant effect sound exposure has on hearing loss, even when accounting for age. The researchers hope their results will prompt more professional musicians to wear hearing protection.
Other Dangerously Loud Sounds from Musical Instruments
The French horn is not the only musical instrument that can cause hearing loss. Cymbals, piccolo, flute and violins can all damage your ears when played at their maximum volume. Trombone, cello, clarinet, piano and the oboe can also produce sounds above 85 dB.
To learn more about protecting your hearing while still playing in your orchestra or band, contact the experts at Texas ENT & Allergy.