A study led by researchers at the University of Manchester has found that people working in the music industry are more likely to develop tinnitus and hearing problems.
Published in Trends in Hearing, the study collected data from around 23,000 people from the UK Biobank, a major national and international health resource which holds an online database of medical and lifestyle records of Britons.
The researchers compared levels of hearing difficulties and tinnitus in noisy ‘high-risk’ industries, such as construction, agriculture and music, to quieter ‘low-risk’ industries, like finance. This was to determine whether these differences could be caused by health and lifestyle factors, rather than occupational noise exposure.
Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing ringing, buzzing, hissing or other sounds that do not come from an external source. It can be devastating, as the noise can be intermittent or continuous and can vary in loudness.
Several famous musicians suffer from tinnitus, such as Liam and Noel Gallagher, Eric Clapton, Barbra Streisand, Ozzy Osbourne and Bob Dylan. This list continues to grow, and in some cases classical music players have been brought to attention too.
Dr Sam Couth, a researcher at the University’s Centre for Audiology and Deafness, said: “Our research shows that people working in the music industry are at considerable risk of developing tinnitus, and this risk is largely due to exposure to loud noise.” In fact, health and lifestyle factors had relatively little impact on hearing difficulties and tinnitus.
“Musicians are advised to wear hearing protection when noise levels exceed 85 decibels, which is roughly equivalent to the noise produced by a passing diesel truck”
Dr Couth continues to discuss the goal to understand why so few musicians use hearing protection and to determine ways to encourage different behaviour. He states: “Musicians should wear earplugs designed specifically for listening to music so that the quality of the sound remains high, whilst the risk of hearing damage is reduced.”
This research promotes the need for hearing conservation in occupational, and especially musical, settings. In fact, Help Musicians have supported and welcomed this research.
Help Musicians have developed a Musicians Hearing Health Scheme that provides preventative support to thousands of musicians.