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Sharp Health News

Protecting the hearing of young musicians

March 10, 2017

Protecting the hearing of young musicians

Did you know that a classical musician might be at a higher risk for hearing loss than a rock 'n' roll drummer?

While volume of an instrument is a factor, so is the duration of playing it, something classical musicians tend to do more than their more amplified counterparts. However, before you have your virtuoso swap Mozart for Metallica, keep in mind that the right ear protection can allow your child to continue playing the music that he or she loves.

According to Dr. Robert Dusa, AuD, an audiologist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers, you are at risk for hearing loss when exposed to continuous sounds at 85 decibels — equivalent to vacuuming — or louder for more than a couple of hours. The likelihood of hearing loss decreases when volumes are less than 80 decibels.

Brass, wind, percussion and stringed instruments, such as violins, can all cause damage to hearing, but again this depends on how long they are played. Your child should wear ear protection if they practice for more than a few hours at a time. Dr. Dusa recommends that musicians who regularly play for long periods be fitted for special earplugs designed for musicians, which filter sounds.

Drummers in particular are exposed to transient, loud impact sounds and typically need a vented or fitted earplug. This allows them to continue hearing the surrounding music but lowers the volume, preventing damaging sounds from entering their ears. Sometimes studio drummers wear earmuffs that can isolate and block out surrounding loud sounds. These allow them to hear the music at softer and less damaging levels. Dr. Dusa recommends avoiding foam earplugs because they attenuate the music and make what does pass through sound boomy.

"Our hearing was meant to last for the majority of our lifetime and it's sensible to start protecting it early to minimize potential hearing disability," says Dr. Dusa. "I tell my patients to value the gift of hearing because, 'Healthy ears make for healthy years.'"

By protecting your children's hearing, you are ensuring their quality of life well into their future.

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