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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 70  |  Page : 189--195

Hearing and hearing conservation practices among Australia's professional orchestral musicians


1 Discipline of Biomedical Sciences, School of Medical Sciences, The University of Sydney, Lidcombe, NSW, Australia
2 Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW, Australia

Correspondence Address:
Ian O'Brien
Discipline of Biomedical Sciences, School of Medical Sciences, University of Sydney, Lidcombe, NSW
Australia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/1463-1741.134920

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Orchestral musicians are an at-risk population for noise-induced hearing loss. Following strategic approaches to mitigate exposure, many must use earplugs to safeguard their hearing, although reported usage rates are poor. Australia has progressive hearing conservation programs within many of its orchestras, yet little is known of earplug usage rates, abilities with earplugs or self-perceived hearing loss in this population. To help direct and inform future approaches to hearing conservation in Australia's orchestras a questionnaire assessing hearing conservation behaviors and the prevalence of self-perceived hearing loss was distributed. A total of 580 musicians across eight professional orchestras were surveyed, with 367 completed surveys (63%) returned. Eighty percent of respondents reported a risk of hearing damage in the orchestra, 64% used earplugs of some type at least some of the time and 83% found this use difficult/impossible. Forty-three percent reported a hearing loss, including 54% in pit orchestras and 46% of those ≤50 years of age. Brass players were least likely to use earplugs, most likely to report usage difficulties and most likely of those ≤50 years of age to report a hearing loss. While earplug usage rates in Australia are encouraging and may be linked to hearing conservation measures in the orchestras, the widespread difficulty reported with the use of these earplugs, the prevalence of self-reported hearing loss and the continued vulnerability of those most at-risk indicate improvements in both earplug design and further education for musicians are required to progress hearing conservation options for this population.






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