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Auditory Thresholds and Factors Contributing to Hearing Loss in a Large Sample of Percussionists

Jenna S. Hoffman, David R. Cunningham, Douglas J. Lorenz
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 21 Number 2: Page 47 (June 2006)

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Abstract: This study was undertaken to quantify hearing thresholds in a large sample of percussionists and to evaluate factors that might increase or decrease a percussionist¿s risk for music-induced hearing loss. Audiometric and musical history data were collected from 315 percussionists attending the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, in November 2004. Hearing thresholds for percussionists were compared to an age- and gender-matched, otologically normal reference population. Results indicate that hearing thresholds of percussionists are significantly worse than those of their age- and gender-matched peers, although differences appear to be small. Hearing was worse in the left ear of percussionists. The prevalence of hearing loss was 39% in percussionists vs. 9% in the reference population. Factors identified as increasing the risk for hearing loss included using amplification systems, playing rock/pop music, having more years of experience, and considering oneself a professional. Increased playing time and playing classical or jazz music were not found to increase a percussionist¿s risk for hearing loss. Benefits of wearing hearing protection devices (HPDs) were observed only for individuals who used foam earplugs when practicing. It is recommended that percussionists not only use HPDs and decrease practice and performance intensity levels but also participate in annual audiologic evaluations, including otoacoustic emission testing, to prevent music-induced hearing loss.

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