Protecting Your Hearing


An advisory from the
National Association of Schools of Music
Performing Arts Medicine Association

Hearing health is essential to your lifelong success as a musician.

Your hearing can be permanently damaged by loud sounds, including music. Technically, this is called Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). Such danger is constant. Noise-induced hearing loss is generally preventable. You must avoid overexposure to loud sounds, especially for long periods of time. The closer you are to the source of a loud sound, the greater the risk of damage to your hearing mechanisms.

Sounds over 85 dB (your typical vacuum cleaner) in intensity pose the greatest risk to your hearing. Risk of hearing loss is based on a combination of sound or loudness intensity and duration.

Recommended maximum daily exposure times (NIOSH) to sounds at or above 85 dB are:

o 85 dB (vacuum cleaner, MP3 player at 1/3 volume) – 8 hours
o 90 dB (blender, hair dryer) – 2 hours
o 94 dB (MP3 player at 1/2 volume) – 1 hour
o 100 dB (MP3 player at full volume, lawnmower) – 15 minutes
o 110 dB (rock concert, power tools) – 2 minutes
o 120 dB (jet planes at take-off) – without ear protection, sound damage is almost immediate

Certain behaviors (controlling volume levels in practice and rehearsal, avoiding noisy environments, turning down the volume) reduce your risk of hearing loss. Be mindful of those MP3 earbuds. (See chart above.)

The use of earplugs and earmuffs helps to protect your hearing health.

Day-to-day decisions can impact your hearing health, both now and in the future. Since sound exposure occurs in and out of school, you also need to learn more and take care of your own hearing health on a daily, even hourly basis. It is important to follow basic hearing health guidelines. It is also important to study this issue and learn more.

If you are concerned about your personal hearing health, talk with a medical professional.

If you are concerned about your hearing health in relationship to your program of study, consult your academic advisor or the Chair of the Department of Music.

This information is provided by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA).