A long-term study has analyzed the sound dynamics in concert halls using an Australian symphony orchestra as a case for a hearing conservation program. The program can help professional and amateur musicians to protect their hearing
A program to protect musicians’ hearing has followed Queensland Symphony Orchestra players in Australia for nine years.
“Hearing loss amongst orchestral musicians is common,” says lead author of the study, Ian O’Brien from School of Medical Sciences at University of Sydney in Australia. The aim of the study has therefore been to find ways for musicians to reduce sound exposure without affecting their music.
Training is crucial
Awareness of hearing loss and education on how to avoid and handle it are key factors in the preservation program. Therefore musicians should have ongoing training in hearing conservation:
“Players who have not taken time to develop the skills necessary to adjust to the different experience of playing with earplugs will inevitably reject such devices,” O’Brien says.
By educating the musicians it is possible for them to manage the risks and limit the exposure to loud noise.
Symphony orchestra actively protects hearing
The researchers began monitoring noise exposure, collecting data and plotting noise maps nine years ago. They investigated how the orchestra was laid out and they experimented with acoustic screens and rotation of the musicians’ seating. They also supplied the musicians with specifically designed ear plugs.
The initiatives of the program were evaluated by the musicians and representatives of the orchestra, where a “noise committee” assessed how the changes affected the musical performance.
After having tested the study based program, the orchestra has implemented many of the initiatives such as wrap-around absorptive screens and moveable diffusive panels for treating poor acoustic spaces.
The study was published in Annals of Occupational Hygiene.