25 September 2013

French horn players are one of the most at-risk orchestral groups for developing noise-induced hearing loss, according to researchers from The University of Queensland and the University of Sydney.

A study published online in Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene assessed 144 French horn players attending an international conference in Brisbane and found as few as 18 per cent regularly used any form of hearing protection.

About one-third of players tested exhibited some form of hearing loss.

Lead author Wayne Wilson, from UQ’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said hearing testing was conducted in practice rooms within a conservatorium of music where background noise levels were minimal.

“Even mild hearing loss can result in difficulties discriminating pitch, abnormal loudness growth and tinnitus, all of which can effect a musician’s ability to perform, subsequently jeopardizing his or her livelihood,” Dr Wilson said.

Co-author Ian O’Brien, a professional horn player and PhD candidate at the University of Sydney’s School of Medical Sciences based at Lidcombe, said the majority of players admitted they never used hearing protection, and only half of those who wore earplugs used devices specially designed for musicians.

“Our findings reinforce the need to educate horn players, their mentors and audiologists about the need to protect hearing and how best to achieve this while still enabling musicians to play to the highest level,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Increased efforts need to be made to better manage the hearing health of orchestral musicians, particularly as any hearing loss affects a musician’s ability to perform and their livelihood.

“While OHS practices in this sector are becoming effective in some professional orchestras, less activity is evident within schools of music and in the broader music community.

“Evidence-based best practice regarding injury prevention and management for musicians is now beginning to emerge and these practices now need to be effectively communicated to the players themselves.”

The journal article can be found here.

Media: Corporate Relations Manager Carolyn Varley, +617 3365 1120, c.varley@uq.edu.au.