Marching Band Participants are at Very High Risk for Hearing Damage

Some six million teens nationwide suffer some type of loss of hearing, and this number has risen dramatically over the last twenty years. While authorities claim that this hearing loss is in part caused by sustained exposure to high volumes of music from phones and MP3 players, taking part in marching band is yet another contributing cause. Marching band is a popular activity for teenagers, as bands can be found in almost all large high schools and in virtually every university.

Teenagers and extreme sounds. Volume, or sound level, is measured in decibels (dB). Sounds greater than 85 dB can cause hearing loss in both adults and children. Marching band includes a variety of instruments, some of which easily cross over that threshold during rehearsals and performances. An experiment at Duke University showed that a drumline rehearsal exposed students to decibel levels of 99 over a 30-minute period. What can be even more damaging than playing those instruments on the field is playing indoors for rehearsals. Unfortunately, many youths don’t reduce the volume of their instruments when playing inside.

Prevention and protection strategies. An effective solution for reducing sound levels is the use of musicians earplugs. These professional earplugs are designed to fit perfectly in the teen’s ears. Musicians earplugs can be expensive, which may be a problem for parents. Another effective strategy for protecting young people’s hearing is to reduce the length of time they are exposed to potentially harmful sound levels by breaking up the rehearsals into shorter sessions. Band leaders and participants also need to be aware of how important it is to lower the volume of their instruments when practicing indoors. To best protect the hearing of marching band members, a joint effort between students, band leaders, and parents is recommended.