French horn players are most at risk of hearing loss in an orchestra

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Aspiring musicians beware – playing the French horn can be bad for your hearing.

It is one of the most rousing instruments in the orchestra, used to create soaring fanfares and powerful harmonics. However, it seems the beauty of the French horn may be lost on the very musicians who play it because it causes them to lose their hearing.

Scientists have found that those who play the distinctive, curved brass instruments experience some of the loudest noises within an orchestra and have the highest risk of hearing loss. New findings suggest that up to a third of horn players suffer hearing problems in at least one of their ears, with younger musicians being most at risk. It is thought that the shape of the instrument, which can direct the sound towards the player’s ears and those of their neighbour, is partly responsible for this increased risk compared to other musicians.

French horns are also often used to play loud fanfares while in classical orchestras horn players are seated side by side in the midst of the brass section. Dr Wayne Wilson, an audiologist who led the study at the study from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, said: “It is now well established that professional orchestral musicians can be exposed to potentially harmful sound levels in their working environment. “It is also acknowledged that sound exposure varies significantly across the orchestra from musician to musician according to position, repertoire, and instrument played, with horn players thought to be one of the most at-risk groups. “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 jeopardising his or her livelihood.”

The researchers examined the hearing of 142 French horn players attending a conference of the International Horn Society and compared this to how often they played. Their study, which is published Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, found that the majority played their horns for more than 20 hours a week, with two thirds of those who took part being members of an orchestra. They found that overall 22.2 per cent of the horn players showed signs of hearing loss while among those who were under 40 years old, 32.9 per cent showed signs of hearing loss.  Just 18 per cent wore hearing protection when they were playing. French horns can reach noise levels of up to 106 decibels while trombones and trumpets can exceed 114 decibels.

With over 25 years’ experience in hearing healthcare, Hidden Hearing is committed to providing the most professional hearing healthcare service to its customers. Anybody who might be concerned about their hearing, can avail of a free hearing test at any Hidden Hearing branch nationwide. You can book a hearing test free of charge at any of Hidden Hearing’s 60 clinics nationwide. Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit www.hiddenhearing.ie.

 

Strimmers are worse than motorway traffic

strimmers

Motorway maintenance workers are exposed to various harmful emissions. Surprisingly, motorised hand-held tools such as strimmers and chainsaws, rather than motorway traffic, are responsible for the highest emissions of particulate matter. These are the conclusions of a study supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

The study was conducted between May 2010 and February 2012 by researchers working with Michael Riediker at the Institute for Work and Health in Lausanne. They accompanied 18 maintenance workers on 50 working days during tasks such as clearing snow, mending crash barriers, cleaning drains, cutting wood or mowing grass on the motorway central reservation. They measured the levels of air pollution, particulates and noise to which workers were exposed during each activity. The result: compared to the average population, maintenance workers are exposed to between three and eight times higher particulate levels. In addition, noise levels often exceed the critical level of 85 decibels.

Surprisingly, motorway traffic is not the main source of noise and pollutants. More than 50 percent of airborne particulates are emitted by strimmers and chainsaws. The small combustion engines which the workers carry on their backs use petrol with oil additives. This makes them real belchers,” says Reto Meier, the lead author of the study. The quickest way to reduce particulate levels, therefore, is to improve the engines in these machines. This is primarily a challenge for the manufacturers, but Meier adds that employers can also play a role by considering emission levels when purchasing equipment.

Hearing protection
Maintenance workers are exposed to the highest noise levels when using pneumatic drills. But the use of strimmers or chainsaws and the traffic during maintenance work in tunnels also give rise to noise levels of 90 decibels or more. Researchers noticed that workers wear hearing protection reliably when they are the cause of the noise, but often fail to do so when the noise is caused by their colleagues or by the traffic.

Anybody who might be concerned about their hearing, can avail of a free hearing test at any Hidden Hearing branch nationwide. You can book a hearing test free of charge at any of Hidden Hearing’s 60 clinics nationwide. Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit http://www.hiddenhearing.ie.

Have you got a noisy job?

Over the next few days we are going to look at the top jobs that are bad for your hearing. First up – The Motorcycle courier.

Motorcycle Courier

Traveling on a motorbike beyond 50mph, can expose the driver to up to 90dB of noise under the helmet. The maximum recommended exposure limit at this level is 2.5-3 hours at a time. While slow city traffic might be more manageable, it’s more the day-in/day-out exposure, as well as longer travels on open roads that do the damage. Courier or no courier, all bikers can be affected.

For any information about hearing protection or hearing loss contact Hidden Hearing.