Noise exposure and hearing thresholds among orchestral musicians

Backus, B. C. and Clark, T. and Williamon, A. (2007) Noise exposure and hearing thresholds among orchestral musicians. In: International Symposium on Performance Science 2007, 22-23 November 2007, Portugal.


An assessment of noise exposure and hearing thresholds among orchestral musicians was carried out at the Royal College of Music (RCM). Sound exposure data was taken over a one week period using personal noise dosimeters attached to ten RCM orchestra students during rehearsals and during a performance (Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Sibelius’s Symphony No. 2). Noise levels (and compliance with the UK’s noise at work regulations) depended upon the type of instrument being played and where musicians were seated. For example, the average 8-hour A-weighted dosage for the trumpet was LEP,d=88.4 dB(A), while it was only 77.1 dB(A) for the double bass. This suggests that different hearing protection strategies may be appropriate for different musicians. Audiogram data taken from 37 students and 19 staff showed that the students (mean age=24.2, SD=4.0) had statistically significant bilateral notches at 6 kHz, indicative of noise-induced hearing loss. Staff members (mean age=45.7, SD=11.0) also had evidence of notches and additionally presented increased thresholds at high frequencies, indicative of expected age-related hearing loss.

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