Hearing Loss in Musicians

Hearing Loss in Musicians

Loud music like other loud sounds can damage hearing and cause tinnitus. Musicians rely on their hearing for their livelihood and hearing loss and/or tinnitus has the potential to end a career. For music lovers, hearing loss may cause the loss of hobby they once enjoyed. Musicians may be at risk for hearing loss as they may be practicing or performing more than 8 hours a day. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, after a concert may be a sign that you are listening to music at damaging levels – if this continues it could cause hearing loss.

How is music induced hearing loss different from noise induced hearing loss?

Music has more mid and high frequency energy than typical noise. In addition, music is often played in a non-reverberant environment. In noise, both ears generally receive the same amount of noise exposure.  However, for musicians this may not be the case. Certain instruments such as the violin or the flute may be closer to one ear than another resulting in a greater loss in one ear.

What should musicians do?

Wear hearing protection! Traditional hearing protection is not appropriate for listening to music. Traditional ear plugs or ear muffs change the sound quality of music. The reason is they decrease the high frequencies more than the low frequencies and cause voices to sound muffled. Special ear plugs have been designed for musicians. They decrease sound equally across all the frequencies and preserve the tonal  quality of the music while at the same time reducing the overall volume of the music to protect the ear. Musician’s ear plugs are custom fit to each ear and come in three different strengths.

Musical Instrument

How loud is it? (dB)

Normal Piano Practice

60-90

Electric Keyboard

60-110

Vocalist

70-85

Classical Chamber Music

70-92

Violin/Viola

85-105

Cello

80-104

Acoustic Bass

70-94

Clarinet

68-82

Oboe

74-102

Saxophone

75-110

Flute

98-114

Piccolo

102-118

French Horn

92-104

Trombone

90-106

Trumpet

88-108

Percussion

68-94

Amplified guitar

105-112

Symphony

86-102

Amplified Rock Music

102-108

MP-3 volume 6/10

94

MP-3 max volume

105

How loud is too loud?

Permitted Time (hours)

Intensity (dB)

8

85

4

88

2

91

1

94

0.5

97

0.25

100

Musicians should consistently wear hearing protection and have regular hearing tests!
References
Chasin, M. (2009). Hearing loss in musicians: Prevention & Management. San Diego: Plural Publishing
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