Professional musicians are almost 4 times as likely to develop noise-induced hearing loss and 57% more likely to develop tinnitus (ringing in the ears) than for the general population. In a large-scale study, Schink et al. (2014) looked at data of about 7 million insured persons from three German health insurance providers of 19-66 year olds over a four-year period. Among 3 million of those who were employed and made insurance contributions, 2,227 were professional musicians. Although hearing loss is more common with older age, the researchers adjusted for age, gender, and place of residence (city/rural).
Despite stated limitations of the study (e.g., no information on type on instrument, music, specific work setting, and other possible factors), the authors concluded that their study is, to their knowledge, the largest study that compares the risk of hearing disorders among professional musicians to that of the general population. They conclude that “Given the number of professional musicians and severe loss of quality of life, hearing loss in professional musicians is of high public importance,” and their data provides “evidence of the need for protective measures.”
At Marin Hearing Center, we are concerned about the hearing healthcare of musicians, and recommend the following:
- Annual hearing tests, or sooner if any suspected change in hearing or onset/increase of tinnitus is noted
- Use of ear protection, such as musician’s earplugs or in-ear monitors
- Installation of sound shields between different sections of an orchestra
Schink, T., Kreutz, G., Busch, V., Pigeot, I., Ahrens, W. (2014). Incidence and relative risk of hearing disorders in professional musicians. Occupational & Environmental Medicine; 0:1-5. doi:10.1136/oemed-2014-102172.