Hearing loss or tinnitus can result from the booming drums or the blaring guitar amplifiers of a hard-rock group. But it can also result from the violin or the piccolo flute of a symphony orchestra.
For a musician, whose livelihood depends on rehearsing and playing music 4-8 hours a day, the danger of a hearing impairment is always present.
It is hardly surprising that music can cause damage while on the job. The sound pressure of a large concert orchestra may reach 112 dB - of amplified rock bands even up to 130 dB, far more than that accepted in an industrial environment and significantly above the 85 dB maximum recommended noise exposure limit in a workplace, established by the World Health Organization, WHO. In the European Union, the EU directive sets a daily noise exposure limit value of 87 dB in the workplace.
A survey has found that 52% of classical musicians and up to 30% of rock or pop musicians suffer from hearing loss.
A Finnish study among classical musicians found that 15% of the musicians in the study suffered from permanent tinnitus. Temporary tinnitus affected another 41% of the musicians in group rehearsals and 18% of those in individual rehearsals.
As many as 43% of the classical musicians suffered from hyperacusis, a hearing disorder characterised by reduced tolerance to specific sound levels not normally regarded as loud for people with normal hearing. Up to half of the musicians in the study considered their work environment as noisy.
70% of the musicians said they we concerned about their hearing. The musicians in the Finnish study said that they found it difficult to perform and hear the others playing when using hearing protection.
Sources: "Effects of Noise on Classical Musicians", Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Tampere University Hospital, Finland, Magazine 8, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work and The Hearing Review.