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Musicians Four Times More Likely to Suffer Hearing Loss

Clive Paget Limelight Magazine| May 3, 2014
© 2014 Limelight
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Study shows musos having drastically increased risks of deafness and tinnitus.

A new study, published in the online journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, has found that professional musicians are four times more likely to develop noise-related hearing loss than non-musicians. The study also found that musicians are 57 per cent more likely to develop tinnitus.

The abstract for the four year research project, which is based around data gathered from three million people, claims that hearing disorders can be associated with occupational exposure to music with musicians having “high risks of music-induced hearing loss,” but points out that “musicians may benefit from non-amplified and low-intensity music.”

The research, carried out from 2004 to 2008, is based on a wealth of data given to health insurance providers in Germany by people in current employment and aged between 19 and 66. Of the three million sampled, 2,227 were musicians (that’s 0.07%). Although the study claims that some musicians were in both rock bands while others were in orchestras it doesn’t reveal the actual proportions.

Perhaps a reflection of the greater respect afforded to professional musicians in Germany, the report maintains that given the number of professional musicians and the severity of the outcome, leading to occupational disability and severe loss of quality of life, addressing such issues associated with hearing loss “is of high public health importance.”

While industrial noise has long been known to be detrimental to hearing, other studies have found that regular and frequent exposure to music actually increases hearing sensitivity. The new study however suggests that for professional musicians “the risks of music-induced hearing loss outweigh the potential benefits for hearing ability”.

In conclusion it recommends that musicians wear in-ear protective devices and that sound shields are installed between different sections of the orchestra (both practices common in opera house pits but less so on the concert platform).

Copyright (c) 2014 Limelight 2014, All Rights Reserved.

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