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Hearing Loss Prevention

While hearing loss is most often associated with factory workers who toil in noisy environments, the fact is that most musicians experience some level of hearing loss over the course of their careers. In addition, there are a number of of seemingly normal situations you may encounter everyday that can put you at risk for hearing loss—such as attendance at concerts and sporting events or the use of earbuds & headphones. Your hearing is one of your most important assets! Learn what you can do to protect it.

Here are the recommended daily exposures for sounds at different decibel levels. Every 3 dB increase reduces the recommended exposure time by half. Keep in mind that most musical instruments can produce sounds ranging from 70-100 decibels, and musical ensembles in the UWW music department have been measured in rehearsal and performing spaces at levels up to 96 decibels. The chart below shows recommended daily exposures to sounds of various decibel levels.

Outside of the music department you will also encounter noise level that can put your hearing at risk. Normal volume levels in a crowded restaurant or the university commons can reach 85 decibels. Your hearing can also be at risk listening to music using earbuds at high levels. Be smart, and take precautions to protect your valuable hearing! The UWW Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders can provide a free hearing evaluation for you, to help you to monitor your hearing health during your academic career. Foam and non-custom musician earplugs are available free to music majors from the music department office.

Once hearing loss has occurred it can not be reversed. Be smart, take precautions and protect your hearing by limiting your exposure to loud sounds. Here are some resources where you can find additional information.

maximum decible chart

Preventing Hearing Loss in University Music School

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (excellent, concise information)

Study Finds Music Teachers at Risk of Hearing Loss

The dangers of being a musician: Many musicians suffer from hearing loss

Musicians and the Prevention of Hearing Loss

Video produced for University of North Texas students which shows the process of having one's hearing tested, and being fitted for custom (musician's) earplugs. (Requires RealAudio plugin)

An increasing number of classical musicians suffer from hearing loss, tinnitus and/or hyperacusis which may severely affect their professional and daily life. These conditions should be considered and treated as health care conditions. Classical musicians are at extreme risk for hearing loss. A Finnish study among classical musicians found that 15 percent of the musicians in the study suffered from permanent tinnitus, in comparison to 2 percent among the general population. Temporary tinnitus affected another 41 percent of the musicians in group rehearsals and 18 percent of those in individual rehearsals. It is estimated that 15 percent of the general population experience tinnitus temporarily. As many as 43 percent of the classical musicians suffered from hyperacusis, a hearing disorder characterized by reduced tolerance to specific sound levels not normally regarded as loud for people with normal hearing.

Basic information on hearing health (National Association of Schools of Music/Performing Arts Medicine Association)

Noise Induced Hearing Loss (National Institutes of Health)