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Evidence of noise-induced hearing loss in young people studying popular music

Christopher Barlow
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 26 Number 2: Page 96 (June 2011)

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Abstract: The number of students studying popular music, music technology, and sound engineering courses at both school and university to has increased rapidly in the last few years. These students are generally involved in music-making/recording and listening to a high level, usually in environments with amplified music. Recent studies have shown that these students are potentially exposed to a high risk of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and are not covered by the same regulatory framework as employees. This study examined the pure tone air conduction hearing thresholds of 50 undergraduate students, including recent school leavers, on a range of popular music courses, to assess if there was evidence of hearing loss. Forty-four percent of students showed evidence of audiometric notch at 4-6 kHz, and 16% were classified under the UK Occupational Health and Safety guidelines as exhibiting mild hearing loss. Instance of audiometric notch was considerably higher than reported from studies of the general population but was around the same level or lower than that reported from studies of "traditional" music courses and conservatoires, suggesting no higher risk for popular music students than for "classical" music students. No relationship with age was present, suggesting that younger students were as likely to exhibit audiometric notch as mature students. This indicates that these students may be damaging their hearing through leisure activities while still at school, suggesting a need for robust education measures to focus on noise exposure of young people.

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