Professional musicians are four times more likely to suffer from hearing disorders and have a 57 percent higher risk of tinnitus than the general public. This was shown in the study "Incidence and relative risk of hearing disorders in professional musicians", which has now been published in the journal "Occupational & Environmental Medicine". The study was developed and conducted in cooperation between the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology - BIPS in Bremen (Dr. Tania Schink, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ahrens, Prof. Dr. Iris Pigeot-Kübler), the Institute of Music at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg (Prof. Dr. Gunter Kreutz) und the Institute of Musicology and Music Education at the University of Bremen (Prof. Dr. Veronika Busch).
For the study the researchers analysed health insurance data of seven million Germans. "The occurrence of hearing disorders increases with age, but even after adjusting for this and other influential factors such as sex and population concentration, professional musicians were still more often affected", state the authors.
Current medical studies suggest that in cases where hearing disorders occur due to industrial noise, music, as a form of therapy, can achieve positive effects and increase hearing sensitivity. This however does not apply for professional musicians. "Our data indicate that the positive effects which arise from this form of therapy do not occur in professional musicians suffering from noise-induced hearing disorders. The risks overweigh the potential benefits", Ahrens explained. In light of the number of affected musicians and the severity of the problem which can lead to occupational disability and severe loss of quality of life, hearing disorders are of high public health relevance.
To prevent hearing disorders, the researchers recommend the use of hearing protection devices such as the so-called in-ear devices. A further possibility would be the use of acoustic shields to separate different instrument groups of an orchestra.
Tania Schink, Gunter Kreutz, Veronika Busch, Iris Pigeot, Wolfgang Ahrens: Incidence and relative risk of hearing disorders in professional musicians. Occupational & Environmental Medicine.
Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology – BIPS
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ahrens
Tel.: +49 / (0)421 / 218-56822, E-Mail: ahrens(at)bips.uni-bremen.de
Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg
Institute of Music
Prof. Dr. Gunter Kreutz
Tel.: +49 / (0)441 / 798-4773, E-Mail: gunter.kreutz(at)uni-oldenburg.de