Safety First: What All Marching Band Musicians Need to Know about the Potential for Hearing Loss

Atlanta Hearing Associates' Blog.

Around six million U.S. teens have some form of hearing loss, which signifies an increase of about 33 % over the past twenty years. While experts claim that this hearing loss is in part caused by regular exposure to high volumes of music from phones and MP3 players, participation in marching band is yet another possible cause. Marching band is a favorite activity for teenagers, as bands can be found in almost all large high schools and in almost every university.

Teenagers and extreme sounds. Noise levels are measured in decibels, also written as dB. Children and adults can suffer hearing loss from exposure to noises over 85 dB. Some of the instruments in marching band can easily surpass the 85dB mark when the teens are practicing or performing. For example, Duke University students were exposed to decibel levels of 99 over a half hour during drumline practice. What can be even more damaging than playing those instruments on the field is playing indoors for rehearsals. Unfortunately, many youths don’t reduce the volume of their instruments when playing inside.

Strategies for hearing protection and hearing loss prevention. Musicians earplugs are effective at reducing the sound levels that reach the inner ear. These professional earplugs are designed to fit perfectly in the teen’s ears. However, parents often find them to be expensive. Another effective strategy for protecting young people’s hearing is to reduce the length of time they are exposed to potentially harmful sound levels by breaking up the rehearsals into shorter sessions. Band leaders and participants also need to be aware of how important it is to lower the volume of their instruments when practicing indoors. Parents, teens, and band leaders should work together to increase awareness and to implement strategies for protecting the hearing of marching band members.

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