Noise-Induced Hearing Loss and Musicians
Presbyacusis is the most common sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the second most common. NIHL has a multitude of possible causes and risk factors including traumatic impulse sounds, repeated exposure to high intensity sounds, chemical exposure, ototoxic medications, smoking, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney failure, and more. However, susceptibility to NIHL varies among individuals.
Phillips, Henrich, and Mace (2010) evaluated the hearing of 329 young (ages 18-25 years) student musicians. The students (176 males, 153 females) were studying classical music (n=310) and jazz (n=19). Areas of study included 96 vocalists, 75 brass instrument players, 71 wind instrument players, 40 string players, 27 keyboard players, and 20 percussionists. Two hundred eighty-two (282) of the 329 students reported no use of hearing protection. Of those who used hearing protection (n=47), they used it less than half the time.
The students completed questionnaires addressing their noise exposure and each student underwent a hearing assessment. For this study, NIHL was defined as the presence of a notch of 15 dB or more at 4000 or 6000 Hz, relative to the best preceding threshold.
Consistent with previous studies, Phillips, Henrich, and Mace determined the overall prevalence of NIHL (among their subjects) was some 45 percent and the vast majority (78 percent) of all notches were found at 6000 Hz. Interestingly, bilateral notching only occurred some 12 percent of the time. When bilateral notching occurred, it was most often at 6000 Hz and the authors note this may represent a group of people who have an inherent predisposition to NIHL. The authors also determined susceptibility to NIHL is not uniform and is not directly attributable to the instrument played.
For More Information, References, and Recommendations
Phillips SL, Henrich VC, Mace, ST. (2010) Prevalence of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in Student Musicians. International Journal of Audiology 49(4):309-316.