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Why Professional Musicians Really Should Wear Effective Ear Protection

by Jay Clark October 16, 2013

A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene found further evidence that French horn players are at great risk for developing Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL), Sciencedaily.com reports:
The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Queensland and the University of Sydney at the 2010 annual gathering of the International Horn Society in Brisbane, Australia, examined the hearing of 144 French horn players. The investigators performed audiometric assessments and measured sound levels and hearing thresholds to determine if the horn players were at risk of harmful sound exposure.
O'Brien and his colleagues also administered a questionnaire to investigate the horn players' safety practices and attitudes about hearing conservation.
"We were surprised to find that only 18 percent of participants reported using any form of hearing protection," said lead investigator Wayne Wilson, PhD, MAudSA, CCP, a senior lecturer in audiology at the University of Queensland. 
NIHL happens when sensitive structures in our ears get damaged from exposure to excessively loud sounds, or loud sounds that last long. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that there have been 125,000 cases of NIHL since 2004, often affecting individuals who are constantly exposed to loud noises. The report also says that experts have previously focused their NIHL studies on rock musicians, but now recognize the need to educate orchestral musicians as well.
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders say that regular use of effective ear protection devices, such as ear plugs and ear muffs, is the best way to prevent NIHL. These devices are commercially available from reputable suppliers like Ear Peace, who have developed a range of products to give the right kind of protection for individual needs. These products are recommended not only for musicians and those whose work expose them to loud noises, but also for fans of concerts and loud music.
The article further states that musicians need better education on preventing NIHL, particularly because any loss of hearing could affect a musician's livelihood. The best ear plugs choice will depend on the amount of noise the user is often subjected to, which could then determine the level of Noise Reduction Ratings (NRR) they will need. An ear plug's NRR is usually listed on its label to indicate the amount of noise the unit can block out.
(From Professional French Horn Players in Danger of Developing Noise-Induced Hearing Loss, Science Daily, Sept. 24, 2013)

Jay Clark
Jay Clark


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