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Potential Hazard of Hearing Damage to Students in Undergraduate Popular Music Courses

Christopher Barlow
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 25 Number 4: Page 175 (December 2010)

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Abstract: In recent years, there has been a rapid growth in university courses related to popular and commercial music, with a commensurate increase in the number of students studying these courses. Students of popular music subjects are frequently involved in the use of electronically amplified sound for rehearsal and recording, in addition to the "normal" noise exposure commonly associated with young people. The combination of these two elements suggests a higher than average noise exposure hazard for these students. To date, the majority of noise studies on students have focused on exposure from personal music players and on classical, orchestral, and marching band musicians. One hundred students across a range of university popular music courses were surveyed using a 30-point questionnaire regarding their musical habits both within and external to their university courses. This was followed by noise dosimetry of studios/recording spaces and music venues popular with students. Questionnaire responses showed 76% of subjects reported having experienced symptoms associated with hearing loss, while only 18% reported using hearing protection devices. Rehearsals averaged 11.5 hrs/wk, with a mean duration 2 hrs 13 mins and mean level of 98 dB LAEQ. Ninety-four percent of subjects reported attending concerts or nightclubs at least once per week, and measured exposure in two of these venues ranged from 98 to 112 dB LAEQ with a mean of 98.9 dB LAEQ over a 4.5-hr period. Results suggested an extremely high hazard of excessive noise exposure among this group from both their social and study-based music activities.

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