Like any other sound, music can cause hearing loss if it’s loud enough and exposure is long enough. A person can damage his hearing at a live concert or by listening to recorded music. Here’s a lot more information on this important topic.
The latest hearing loss culprit is the iPod and similar devices. Here’s the recent coverage of iPods as a cause of hearing loss.
June 2000 – Those of you who have been “encouraging” your kids to turn their music down to avoid harming their hearing now have corroboration from the scientific community. Here is their account of how loud music causes hearing loss.
January 2002 – The sound industry is starting to take a look at their contribution to hearing loss and what liability they might have in cases of hearing loss. Here’s a report on what’s happening in that arena.
May 2003 – The music volume in clubs and concerts is a serious threat to young peoples’ hearing. Here’s an article from England with shocking statistics on the hearing loss threat to young people.
June 2004 – If you operate a jack hammer, you might expect to be at risk for hearing loss. But have you ever considered the hearing loss risks for music teachers?
August 2005 – The House Ear Institute just announced a new program to make kids aware of the dangers of their music listening habits. Here’s the notice.
January 2006 – Choosing the right headphones can save your hearing!
March 2006 – ROCK superstar Roger Daltrey has revealed years of rock music has taken its toll on his ears.
March 2006 – Phil Collins Discusses His Hearing Loss
April 2006 – Hearing Protection for Musicians
April 2006 – Headphones stir hearing-loss worries
April 2006 – Classical Musicians May be More at Risk of Hearing Loss than Rock Musicians
April 2006 – Rock and Roll Hard of Hearing Hall of Fame
May 2006 – Using proper headphones can prevent hearing loss
May 2006 – iPod Hearing Loss Protection for Boomers: Five HearPod Solutions
June 2006 – Now hear this: Ear `buds’ are cool, but the price may be too steep
September 2006 – Loud Music Takes Toll on Eric Clapton’s Hearing
October 2006 – Creative’s New ZEN MP3 Players Set Volume Limits and Provide Safety Guidelines from Experts
October 2006 – Researchers Recommend Safe Listening Levels for iPod
November 2006 – Teens Now More Concerned About Noise and Hearing Health
January 2007 – Noise-induced hearing loss escalating in U.S.
February 2007 – UNT takes proactive steps to protect musicians from hearing loss
June 2007 – Apple invents iPod hearing protection technology
June 2007 – Musician Warns About Hearing Loss
July 2007 – Music lovers face hearing loss timebomb, RNID warns
August 2007 – Purdue University Audiologist Advocates Earplugs for Musicians
September 2007 – Musicians: Going Deaf for a Living
November 2007 – Audio gain in volume signals loss for listeners
November 2007 – Germany to Limit Disco Volume
December 2007 – Law mandating noise limits meeting resistance
December 2007 – Losing your hearing to rock and roll
December 2007 – Many Musicians Risk Hearing Loss
January 2008 – Musicians and the Prevention of Hearing Loss: An Introduction
March 2008 – Old rockers pay the price for years of noise
April 2008 – The quiet revolution: musicians’ exposure to noise
May 2008 – Loud pieces put orchestra musicians’ hearing at risk
May 2008 – Hearing Loss in Sound Technicians
May 2008 – Classical musicians at extreme risk for hearing loss
June 2008 – The bands played on … and slowly I went deaf
January 2009 – Come on, feel the noise – but risk permanent hearing damage
January 2009 – Music teachers are ordered to wear earmuffs by health and safety watchdog
April 2009 – Making Live Music Safe
June 2009 – Safe-Listening Myths for Personal Music Players
December 2009 – Physicians Urge Parents To Preset Volume On Holiday Electronics
December 2009 – Apple Wins Dismissal of Suit Over IPod Hearing Loss
June 2010 – Saving the music industry from itself
July 2010 – Couple Awarded Damages for Loud Rock Concert
August 2010 – Prevalence of Hearing Loss Among U.S. Adolescents Has Increased Significantly
September 2010 – Rocker helps musicians preserve their hearing
October 2010 – U of M Research Shows U.S. Teen Hearing Loss Better than Reported
More on this and related topics
Finding the Right Headphones
What’s interesting is that your choice of headphones can actually help your hearing, as opposed to damaging it. Consider some of the typical places people use headphones: on a train or bus while commuting, walking through a city or college, traveling in a car (hopefully not while driving), or traveling on an airplane. Many of these places are loud environments, especially those that involve trains, buses, and airplanes. People who use headphones in these kinds of places tend to turn up the volume louder than they normally would, to drown out the sounds around them. They’re in even more danger of losing or damaging their hearing. Full Story
DALTREY: I’M DEAF
ROCK superstar Roger Daltrey has revealed years of rock music has taken its toll on his ears. The 62-year-old Who frontman’s hearing has been worn away by years of performing on stage. Full Story
Phil Collins Discusses His Hearing Loss
According to media reports, 55-year-old singer Phil Collins is gradually losing his hearing and becoming increasingly lonely in his beautiful Swiss home near Geneva. The problems are said to have begun in 2000 when Collins first became aware of a loss of hearing in his right ear and took this as a sign that he needed to change his attitude to life. Full Story
Hearing Protection for Musicians
Musicians need to hear well, and safely, when they play. Standard industrial-type hearing protectors muffle sound and frequently provide too much attenuation and occlusion to be acceptable for musicians. This article describes the selection of high-fidelity earplugs for musicians. Full Story
Headphones stir hearing-loss worries
Maybe your kids really can’t hear you after all. More than half of high school students surveyed reported at least one symptom of hearing loss associated with the use of portable music players, like iPods and other MP3 players, in a poll by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Full Story
Classical Musicians May be More at Risk of Hearing Loss than Rock Musicians
People who are less familiar with classical music may think of it as calming. Richard H. Israel, an audiologist and a long-time music lover, had some other thoughts. And that is why he is serving as consulting audiologist for the National Philharmonic Orchestra (NPO). Classical music often reaches dangerous sound levels. For example, in Wagner’s Ring Cycle, when movements such as the “Gotterdammerung” are played, orchestra sounds of 110 decibels are attained. Trumpeters playing Mahler’s Ninth Symphony produce passages of 112 decibels. The recommended daily sound maximum is 85 decibels for eight hours a day. Full Story
Rock and Roll Hard of Hearing Hall of Fame
The official selection for the 2006 Rock and Roll Hard of Hearing Hall of Fame (http://www.hardofhearinghalloffame.com) has been made. Selection criteria are based on consideration of an individual’s body of work, and damaged inner ears because of music amplification and use of headphones.
Initial Selections for 2006:
Pete Townshend – Guitar (The Who)
Jeff Beck – Guitar (Yardbirds)
Eric Clapton – Guitar (Yardbirds)
John Entwhistle – Bass Guitar (The Who)
Mick Fleetwood – Drums (Fleetwood Mac)
James Destri – Keyboards (Blondie)
Bono – Vocals (U2)
Phil Collins – Vocals (Genesis)
Using proper headphones can prevent hearing loss
People keep pumping up the volume on their digital music players — and damaging their hearing — because those cheap little headphones can’t block out external noise. When you’re walking down a busy street, riding a city bus or taking the A train, the iPod’s volume goes up, up and up when competing with the ambient noise. Though Apple recently released software for the iPod Nano and video iPod that locks in volume peaks with a special code, a pair of noise-blocking or noise-canceling headphones guards against hearing loss. With external noise blocked, music will seem as loud as those old earbuds but at reduced actual volume. Full Story
Loud Music Takes Toll on Eric Clapton’s Hearing
Eric Clapton is going deaf – because of his own rock concerts.
The legendary guitarist has revealed he suffers from mild tinnitus, ringing in the ears, and is convinced his excessively loud performances with Cream back in the 60s are to blame.
He told Britain’s Daily Express newspaper: “My hearing isn’t ruined, but if I stop and listen I’ve got whistling all the time which I suppose is a mild tinnitus.
“I probably had two 100-watt stacks at the height of things and I would turn one on for guitar solos. It was just mad!” Full Story
Noise-induced hearing loss escalating in U.S.
It’s an argument most 50-years-olds can still remember having with their parents: attend loud rock concerts, they were warned, and risk damaging your hearing. A generation later, young people across the world were asked to heed similar warnings about their Walkman headphones. Today, users of portable music players may be turning up the volume even further to avoid hearing the same plea from concerned adults. Noise-induced hearing loss is escalating in the United States among several age groups. Portable music players and other items that attach directly to the ears are among the primary culprits. Full Story
Apple invents iPod hearing protection technology
Apple acknowledges that portable media players, a class of products which includes the iPod, can cause hearing damage, according to a newly published patent application filed by the company. The application describes a method of reducing the risk of hearing loss. The document, which does not mention the iPod by name, was originally filed one month before a class action lawsuit which alleges the iPod series’ design may exacerbate hearing loss. Apple has avoided public discussion of the potential for hearing damage from the iPod, although the manuals for all its computers and other products include a generic warning about safe listening levels. In fact, when the company offered a volume-limiting update for the iPod last year, its official announcement was extremely unusual in giving no reason for the update – it did not mention the possibility of hearing damage. Full Story
Musician Warns About Hearing Loss
Kris Chesky used to press his trumpet to his lips, fill his lungs and cheeks with air and belt out a string of notes that hit like lightning strikes. He started playing in fourth grade. After high school, he attended the renowned Berklee School of Music in Boston. By his 20s, he was a world-class musician. He toured with some of the country’s great jazz trumpeters. But the thunder from those lightning strikes added up. After practicing all day and performing all night, his ears rang until he couldn’t do anything but try to sleep. Full Story
Musicians: Going Deaf for a Living
Whether you front for a rock band, filling stadiums with screaming fans, or you’re first violin at the philharmonic – making music is your business. And, because your sensitive, inner ear mechanisms are regularly bombarded by loud resonating sound, you’re going deaf for a living. It takes amperage and stacks of speakers to hear that guitar solo over 10,000 screaming fans. And, as a professional musician, you’re standing right in front of that explosion of decibels. If you play classical music or pops with a large symphony, you experience the same loss of hearing caused by the onslaught of the percussion, horns, reeds and string sections. And as a professional, who’s worked hard to reach the pinnacle, quitting isn’t an option. Full Story
Audio gain in volume signals loss for listeners
Despite serious concerns about their artistic integrity, members of the Seldon Plan agreed to crank up the volume on their latest album. The Baltimore-based band had a good reason: They want your attention. And so does everybody else. That’s because studio engineers are pushing the envelope on technology that makes recordings sound louder than ever before – ensnaring listeners in an audio arms race dubbed “The Loudness Wars.” “The level of compact discs went up about 20 decibels in 20 years,” observed Bob Katz, chief mastering engineer of Digital Domain, a sound studio in Florida. To make this happen, engineers filter out the normal peaks and valleys of musical performances – and boost the volume of everything between. The technique also shows up in TV commercials that are much noisier than the programs they sponsor. In the music industry, it has produced a generation of recordings that lacks the subtlety of earlier releases. Some experts also fear that it contributes to long-term hearing loss. Full Story
Losing your hearing to rock and roll
The wake-up call for Jonas came three years ago. The Montreal rocker, who now cranks out the kind of volume required of a Bell Centre headliner, was decompressing after a show with his guitarist and right-hand man, Corey Diabo. “We were in a hotel room, talking, and we could barely hear each other,” said Jonas, 28. “We just heard the hissing and buzzing in our ears. We were noticing that it would last until the next day in soundcheck – sometimes two days later. We were tired of it.” Full Story
Many Musicians Risk Hearing Loss
Everyone knows that rock musicians are at risk for hearing damage. The Who’s Pete Townshend has suffered partial deafness and ear-ringing tinnitus from years of performing in what was known as “the world’s loudest rock band.” Public health groups have made sundry warnings about the perils of listening to iPods at high volume via earbuds. But few people realize that hearing health is an issue for musicians of every stripe, from tuxedoed symphony-orchestra players to your neighborhood’s high school marching band. College music majors, for example, ensconce themselves in tiny practice rooms for hours, repeating excerpts over and over with sometimes deafening sound bouncing off the walls. They may go on to play in orchestras, spending hours per week sitting in front of the blaring of trombones, the rat-a-tat of snare drums and the bellowing of tubas. On game day, young musicians in marching bands may be exposed to sound levels of above 100 decibels, according to one Duke University study — not far from the pain threshold of 120 decibels. Full Story
Musicians and the Prevention of Hearing Loss: An Introduction
Marshall Chasin, M.Sc., AuD, Reg. CASLPO, Aud(C), Audiologist, Musicians’ Clinics of Canada
Editor’s Note: Dr. Chasin has provided an excellent overview of how musicians might effectively prevent music-induced hearing loss. I would encourage you to download and read the three PDF addendums provided at the end of this article for more in-depth information of several topics discussed in this article. – Paul Dybala, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief
Hearing loss is a gradual process that may not be noticed for years. When it does happen, people generally notice that speech is mumbled and unclear. People may report a ringing (or tinnitus) in their ears or head. By that time, the only thing that may help is a hearing aid. While hearing aids have improved dramatically, they are not perfect.
Once you leave work, there are many sources of noise encountered in everyday life: traffic, loud music, MP3 players, lawn mowers, snowmobiles, and motor boats, to name a few. Even a noisy hockey arena can be damaging! Yet, even quiet noise, depending on how long you listen, can damage your hearing. It is quite surprising how quiet an 85 dBA noise actually sounds. A permanent hearing loss can be the result of a single loud blast (acoustic trauma), but more often it is the result of years of exposure to sounds that one would not normally think of as damaging. Unlike industrial noise exposure, there are unfortunately some potential sources of acoustic trauma in the musical venue. These may include feedback squeals during sound checks, inappropriately-set limiters, purcussive blasts from cannons and pieces of wood being smashed together, or being seated in front of a large stack of speakers for an extended performance. While there is scant research in the literature on this subject area, clinically, hearing loss is reported (and confirmed) where the source was a single or relatively short duration blast. Industrial environments are in this sense, a much more controlled environment than many musical venues. Full Story
Old rockers pay the price for years of noise
The wake-up call for Jonas came three years ago. The Montreal rocker, who now cranks out the kind of volume required of a Bell Centre headliner, was decompressing after a show with his guitarist and right-hand man, Corey Diabo. “We were in a hotel room, talking, and we could barely hear each other,” Jonas, 28, said. “We just heard the hissing and buzzing in our ears. We were noticing that it would last until the next day in soundcheck — sometimes two days later. We were tired of it.”
Clip: Dr. Marshall Chasin, director of auditory research at the Musicians Clinics of Canada in Toronto, said nine out of 10 musicians he sees — who have been referred after experiencing other problems, like back injuries — have the beginnings of a noise-induced or music-induced hearing loss. Many are classical musicians, he said, “but we see rockers anywhere between their teens and their 80s. And we see as many music listeners as music players.” Full Story
The quiet revolution: musicians’ exposure to noise
As a professional dance critic, and a self-confessed ballet nut, I have spent my life in thrall to Tchaikovsky. I love the sound of a big orchestra in a big lyric theatre blasting out one of his big ballet scores. The louder the better, and The Sleeping Beauty best of all. So when I had the chance to sit in the orchestra pit during a performance of Sleeping Beauty at the Royal Opera House it was a fantasy come true. How better to experience the lustrous wonder of that majestic music than to sit beside the musicians who play it? I knew the sound was going to be fantastic, and it was – Valeriy Ovsyanikov and 75 musicians of the ROH Orchestra saw to that – and it was indeed thrilling to be down there in the middle of it. But as the Rose Adagio unfolded, and Tchaikovsky’s writing grew ever grander, another sensation began to worm its way into my consciousness – pain. My ears started to hurt, thanks to the short sharp shrieks of the flutes, the crash of the cymbals and the blare of the French horns. Imagine, therefore, how you would feel if you were a professional musician and you were playing Sleeping Beauty every night, or indeed Strauss’s Salome or any part of Wagner’s Ring cycle? A wall of sound may be exciting for audiences, but it can also mean exposure to damaging levels of noise for musicians trapped in a pit like goldfish in a bowl. Full Story
Loud pieces put orchestra musicians’ hearing at risk
Our culture likes a big sound. At orchestra concerts, there’s a visceral kick when the brass pours it on or a percussionist whomps the big bass drum. It comes at a cost, though. John Kasica, acting principal percussionist of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, says he has “lost some of the edge” of his hearing. Former principal percussion Rich O’Donnell has significant hearing loss. One longtime member of the French horn section wears not one but two hearing aids. Kasica, in the orchestra 36 years, had a hearing test last summer. “They put the headphones on you, and they make these sounds.” At first he could hear them, “then a minute went by, and no sounds.” Kasica thought the technician was simply switching to the other ear. Wrong. As it turned out, “I couldn’t hear half of them.” Full Story
Hearing Loss in Sound Technicians
Music is ever present in our daily lives, establishing a link between humans and the arts through the senses and pleasure. Sound technicians are the link between musicians and audiences or consumers. Recently, general concern has arisen regarding occurrences of hearing loss induced by noise from excessively amplified sound-producing activities within leisure and professional environments. Sound technicians’ activities expose them to the risk of hearing loss, and consequently put at risk their quality of life, the quality of the musical product and consumers’ hearing. The aim of this study was to measure the prevalence of high frequency hearing loss consistent with noise exposure among sound technicians in Brazil and compare this with a control group without occupational noise exposure. Full Story
The bands played on … and slowly I went deaf
The audiologist didn’t mince her words. ‘You’ve got the hearing of someone 30 years older than you.’ The results on the audiogram showed that I have ‘severe’ hearing loss with high-frequency sounds, she said. It’s not what a 44-year-old expects or wants to hear. It wasn’t a surprise, though. I’ve struggled for many years to hear clearly in almost every situation: at work, in bars or restaurants, at parties, in front of the TV, at the cinema, or on the mobile. Partial deafness is very frustrating. It’s also usually irreversible. Unlike most parts of the body, damaged inner ear hair cells don’t regenerate. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve missed out on hearing a joke, gossip or discussion of a film. But for many years a reluctance to wear NHS-issue hearing aids meant I did nothing. But as of 10 days ago I am no longer one of what the Royal National Institute for Deaf People says is the four million people who could benefit from wearing a hearing aid but don’t, and am now among the two million who do. Full Story
Come on, feel the noise – but risk permanent hearing damage
‘I want to ask one fundamental question,” said Hans Keller after a Pink Floyd performance in 1967. “Why has it all got to be so terribly loud?” “I don’t guess it has to be,” bass guitarist Roger Waters replied. “But that’s the way we like it. It doesn’t sound terribly loud to us.” The Austrian-born musician and musicologist’s attitude to the group – severe, like a schoolmaster telling off naughty boys – made him look like the quintessential square on the wrong side of the generation gap: he just couldn’t get the high-volume psychedelic sounds that the kids were digging. Wind forward 41 years to the Roundhouse, London, and My Bloody Valentine are about to play You Made Me Realize. Guitarist Kevin Shields gestures for his already fearsomely loud guitar to be turned up – into uncharted territory way beyond 11 – and midway through the song they launch into the 20 minute “Holocaust” section of guitar noise and trouser-rippling sub-bass . . . . The Who went on, in 1976, to become officially The Loudest Band in the World at 126 decibels Full Story
Music teachers are ordered to wear earmuffs by health and safety watchdog
School music teachers have been warned to wear earmuffs or stand behind noise screens to protect their hearing. This is because beginners tend to blast away much louder than professionals. The most potentially deafening instrument is the cornet, with just one honk being enough to cause permanent ear damage. And standing in the direct fire of instruments such as the flute, oboe and saxophone can become risky after just 15 minutes. Standing next to a school band is even more dangerous, the Health and Safety Executive warns. ‘Sound levels produced by groups of student instrumentalists are likely to be higher than those produced by a professional group of players because of less-developed technical abilities and natural exuberance,’ the organisation said. ‘Damaging sound levels have been measured at the conductor’s position in school bands.’ Full Story
Safe-Listening Myths for Personal Music Players
There’s a great article article in the ASHA Leader that discusses the following 10 myths about Personal Music Players (PMPs). For the full discussion, please point your browser to http://tinyurl.com/lhnjcw
MYTH 1: Personal music players are a primary reason for NIHL in children.
MYTH 2: PMP manufacturers have eliminated the risk of NIHL by providing a means of locking the PMP’s volume control setting.
MYTH 3: Insert earphones are worse than other styles of earphones for your ears.
MYTH 4: The music is too loud if you can hear it from your child’s headphones.
MYTH 5: 85 dBA time-weighted average is a safe noise exposure reference for children when applied to PMPs.
MYTH 6: Sound levels measured at the eardrum can be directly compared to damage risk criteria.
MYTH 7: PMPs should never be played at hazardous sound levels.
MYTH 8: Noise cancellation earphones provide safe listening because they cancel the hazardous noise.
MYTH 9: A recommended maximum volume control setting and listening duration for adults is appropriate for children and babies.
MYTH 10: Today’s PMP technology puts listeners at greater risk.
Apple Wins Dismissal of Suit Over IPod Hearing Loss
Apple Computer Inc., the maker of the bestselling iPod digital music player, won a federal appeals court ruling upholding dismissal of a lawsuit claiming the device and headsets sold with it are defective and the company doesn’t adequately warn about the possibility of hearing loss. The lawsuit, filed by an iPod customer in Louisiana and another customer in California in 2006, had to be dismissed because they failed to show that the devices weren’t fit to be sold for the ordinary use of listening to music, the appeals court said today. The customers alleged that iPods can play music at 104 decibels — a noise level equivalent to helicopters and power mowers. While a noise warning is in user manuals, there is no indication of the iPod’s volume capability on the device itself, the complaint claimed. A federal appeals court in San Jose, California, threw the case out. Full Story
Saving the music industry from itself
I’d say I’m an audiologist who specializes in serving a misunderstood, underserved market where hearing is mission critical. My primary work is to prevent hearing loss in musicians. It’s an interesting job, as I have worked with over 1000 famous musicians, and many more not-so-famous ones. It all started back in the 1980s when a local band here in Chicago came to me for help because the lead singer was having hearing problems and was going to quit. I was able to help her, and she kept performing. So basically, I saw a need, an empty space where there should be some sort of prevention program in place, and nobody was doing anything about it. I thought it was time somebody did. Full Story
Couple Awarded Damages for Loud Rock Concert
A couple who sued the heavy metal band Whitesnake claiming that one of them suffered hearing problems after seeing the band at Boston’s Orpheum Theatre will have to be content with a $40,000 settlement, the Appeals Court has ruled. Maryellen and Kevin Burns filed the suit against the band, the promoter and the venue owner after attending a 2003 show during the band’s “Mmmm … Nice Package” tour, which also featured heavy metal groups, the Scorpions and Dokken. The couple said a piece of staging equipment blocked the view from their original seats, so theater staff moved them to a new location closer to the stage. The new seats were also closer to a large tower of speakers which had the potential to blast music at a volume anywhere from 2 to 22 times what is considered “acceptable exposure” to the human ear, a hearing loss expert said in a statement filed with the court. The plaintiffs claimed lead singer David Coverdale even looked at the speakers and joked “Is this safe?” before launching into his 80’s hair metal hits like “Here I Go Again” and “Is This Love.” Full Story
Prevalence of Hearing Loss Among U.S. Adolescents Has Increased Significantly
Data from two nationally representative surveys indicates that the prevalence of hearing loss among U.S. adolescents increased by about 30 percent from 1988-1994 to 2005-2006, with 1 in 5 adolescents having hearing loss in 2005-2006, according to a study in the August 18 issue of JAMA. Hearing loss is a common sensory disorder, affecting tens of millions of individuals of all ages in the United States. Adolescent hearing loss, although common, is not well understood, and can have important educational and social implications, according to background information in the article. Some risk factors, such as loud sound exposure from listening to music, may be of particular importance to adolescents. Full Story
Rocker helps musicians preserve their hearing
Musician and songwriter Kathy Peck traces her hearing loss back to 1984 when she and fellow band members of The Contractions opened for Duran Duran at Oakland Coliseum. She describes the loss as a transformational event in her life that propelled her into becoming a hearing conservation advocate. In 1988 she co-founded Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers (HEAR) with physician Flash Gordon, MD, formerly of the Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic. Today the San Francisco-based, nonprofit organization still provides free hearing screenings, as it has done for the past two decades, and executive director Peck lectures widely on hearing conservation, and provides custom hearing molds for musicians at HEAR (www.hearnet.com) and through its Partner Audiology Network. Full Story