Marching Band Participants are at High Risk for Hearing Damage

Around 6 million U.S. teens have some form of hearing loss, which signifies an increase of approximately 33 % over the last 2 decades. While experts claim that this hearing loss is in part due to sustained exposure to high volumes of music from portable players and phones, participation in marching band is yet another possible cause. As almost every city high school and college has a marching band, band membership is a very common activity among teens.

Hazardous sound levels for teenagers.Noise levels are measured in decibels, also written as dB. Sounds in excess of 85 dB can lead to hearing loss in both children and adults. Some of the instruments in marching band can easily surpass the 85dB mark when the teens are practicing or performing. An experiment at Duke University showed that a drumline rehearsal exposed students to decibel levels of 99 over a 30-minute period. What can be even more damaging than playing those instruments on the field is playing indoors for rehearsals. Unfortunately, many youths don’t reduce the volume of their instruments when playing inside.

Strategies for hearing protection and hearing loss prevention. Musicians earplugs are effective at reducing the sound levels that reach the inner ear. Musicians earplugs are custom-designed to fit an individual’s ear perfectly. However, parents often find them to be expensive. Shorter rehearsal sessions are another good approach to protecting teens hearing, because it breaks up the time for which they are exposed to potentially damaging decibel levels. Band leaders and participants also need to be aware of how important it is to lower the volume of their instruments when practicing indoors. To best protect the hearing of marching band members, a joint effort between students, band leaders, and parents is recommended.

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