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For all musicians there is a need for guidelines to avoid deafness from musical instruments. The author, an amateur musician and Convener of an orchestra was asked to provide guidance. What follows is a superficial and perhaps naïve interim review that should hopefully be of assistance and, more importantly, encourage those with more profound knowledge to issue relevant guidance.
Deafness, decreasing appreciation of loudness, occurs with normal ageing. Counterintuitively ear damage may continue despite this. Indeed there is problem that hearing aids, by amplification of the lost frequencies, may expose ears to greater intensity of vibrations that might have contributed to hearing loss in the first place.
For many years there have been concerns about the hearing of professional musicians exposed to loud music.1 Loudness is subjective and reflects, in a non-linear fashion, how much energy an instrument creates (amplitude usually refers to a scientifically measured value of loudness). Pitch is also subjective (the frequency usually refers to a scientifically measured value of pitch). The frequency range of human hearing is generally 20 Hz to 20 000 Hz (vibrations per second) but this will also depend on the associated loudness. Studies have shown that hearing impairment is a significant problem for about 45% of orchestral musicians and up to about 75% experience tinnitus.
There are general guidelines designed to minimise ear damage2 that state the employees should be provided with hearing protection if they request it, employers should ensure they use them, and employers should ensure noise exposures should be between the exposure action values, and employers should identify areas where the use of hearing protection should be compulsory and mark them with signs if possible. In the past it had been assumed that orchestras and live music venues were exempt from such noise protection measures and this …
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