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Early evidence of cochlear damage in a large sample of percussionists

Jodee A. Pride, David R. Cunningham
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 20 Number 3: Page 135 (September 2005)

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Abstract: Percussionists can be exposed to intermittent sound stimuli that exceed 145 dB SPL, although damage may occur to the outer hair cells at levels of 120 dB SPL. The present study measured distortion-product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs) in a group of 86 normal-hearing percussionists and 39 normal-hearing nonpercussionists. Results indicate that normal-hearing percussionists have lower DPOAE amplitudes than normal-hearing nonpercussionists. DPOAE amplitudes were significantly lower at 6000 Hz in both the left and right ears for percussionists. Percussionists also more frequently had absent DPOAEs, with the greatest differences occurring at 6000 Hz (absent DPOAEs in 25% of percussionists vs 10% of nonpercussionists). When all frequencies are considered as a group, 33% of the percussionists had an absent DPOAE in either ear at some frequency, compared to only 23% of the nonpercussionists. Otoacoustic emissions are more sensitive to outer hair cell damage than pure-tone threshold measurements and can serve as an important measurement of sensory loss (i.e., outer hair cell damage) in musicians before the person perceives the hearing loss. DPOAE monitoring for musicians, along with appropriate education and intervention, might help prevent or minimize music-induced hearing loss.

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