13 May 2014

French horn players blowing their hearing away

Only 18% of musicians use ear protection during musical performances, an Australian study shows.

Classical music often involves a variety of instruments; pianos, violins, clarinets, harps and horns, all creating classical tunes. These sounds are enjoyable; however they also endanger the hearing of the musicians playing them. This is not least the case for French horn players. 

According to an Australian study, signs of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) were found in between 17% and 33% of the 142 professional French horn players that were studied.

Furthermore, fewer than 1 in 5 of the musicians surveyed said they used hearing protection, such as earplugs. Of the horn players who did use hearing protection, only 18% used hearing protection throughout the performances.

dB levels violate regulations

A musician’s ear is the greatest tool in playing an instrument correctly and hearing loss should be prevented as much as possible. 

French horn players are often exposed to 81-90 decibels (dB) for 21-48 hours per week. Such levels violate several health regulations that stipulate a maximum level to be 85 dB for 30 minutes a day. Any higher level of dB could be detrimental to the musician’s hearing.

The findings of the study reinforce the need to educate horn players, mentors and audiologists about the need to protect hearing in order to protect the musicians’ ability to perform. 

About the study

The study was carried out by PhD Ian O’Brian and a team of Australian researchers from the University of Queensland, Brisbane and The University and Sydney. In the study, 142 French horn players attending an international horn conference in Brisbane participated. The findings were published in the scientific journal, ‘The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene’.

Sources: www.npr.org and www.medicaldaily.com 

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