Chris G. Koutures, MD, FAAP Pediatric and sports medicine specialist

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Proud physician:
USA Volleyball Mens/Womens National Teams
CS Fullerton Intercollegiate Athletics
Chapman University Dance Department
Orange Lutheran High School

Co-Author of Acclaimed Textbook

Pediatric Sports Medicine: Essentials for Office Evaluation

Orange County Physician Of Excellence, 2015 and 2016

 

Hear This- Musicians and Dancers need to Protect their Hearing!

Saw a few aspiring Marching Band members this week for pre-participation exams, which did include a discussion on hearing protection. Like many younger performers, they didn't seem too concerned about a problem that may not present until many years down the road. Like many young performers, they also may not know about one of my favorite bands Spinal Tap, and if I can actually make a Spinal Tap reference to illustrate the importance of protecting hearing in musicians, I definitely won't miss the opportunity. 

Oh, and after appreciated the music levels in dance classes, it would be best if dancers heeded this information as well!

Noise induced hearing loss can occur after a brief exposure to louder sounds, can be reversed if occurs earlier in life, but with repeated exposure to louder sounds, permanent damage can occur. 

Noise induced hearing loss is also completely, 100% preventable!

My parents owned and operated a company that made audiograms (machines that test hearing) for around 30 years, so I have always been partial to the concerns of hearing loss. 

In the case of musicians, they are at particular risk of higher frequency range hearing loss that can affect conversations and other daily activities as illustrated by the audiogram below:

The red line (right ear) indicates a significant hearing loss at 4000HZ and the blue line (left ear) shows a loss, though not as dramatic, at the same frequency. the 4000 HZ level includes hearing of several vowels, consonants and especially those involving the letter "s".

The red line (right ear) indicates a significant hearing loss at 4000HZ and the blue line (left ear) shows a loss, though not as dramatic, at the same frequency. the 4000 HZ level includes hearing of several vowels, consonants and especially those involving the letter "s".

Regular (at least annual if not more frequently) audiograms along with noise monitoring equipment in practice rooms and performance halls can help a musician monitor hearing and noise exposure.

Noise travel can be deflected or decreased by the following techniques:

  • Use of sound barriers between musicians
  • Use of plexiglass shields between musicians
  • Risers to alter the level of musicians and keep instruments from being placed right next to the ear of a fellow musicians
  • Use of sound baffles in instruments
  • Attention to position in room of both individuals and groups of musicians

Personal hearing protection may not always be the most popular aesthetic selection, but can be extremely useful:

  • Ear Plugs
    • Rubber, Plastic, Urethane, Wax, Foam or Impregnated Cotton
    • Off-the-shelf Fairly Effective
  • Ear Muffs
    • May give a more effective seal

The final piece of protective advice- one doesn't have to max volume every performance, or in the words of our Spinal Tap mates, you don't have to go to 11 every time!

After reading this, are you more apt to use hearing protection techniques? Do you have any other suggestions to protect your hearing?