Musicians are being urged to wear protective earplugs on stage after a new study reveals they are twice as likely to develop tinnitus as people working in quieter jobs.
The study, lead by researchers from the University of Manchester analysed 23,000 people from the UK Biobank, an online database of medical and lifestyle records of half a million Britons.
The team compared levels of hearing difficulties and tinnitus in people working in noisy ‘high-risk’ construction, agricultural and music industries compared to people working in finance, a quiet ‘low-risk’ industry. Tinnitus is a potentially devastating condition in which people hear ringing, buzzing or whistling noises in the absence of any external sounds.
The list of high-profile musicians who reportedly suffer from tinnitus continues to grow, including Liam and Noel Gallagher, Eric Clapton Chris Martin, Ozzy Osbourne and Bob Dylan.
In 2017 the wife of Inspiral Carpets drummer Craig Gill told the inquest into his death that he suffered from “unbearable” tinnitus in the weeks before he took his own life.
Rosie Marie Gill found the 44-year-old hanging at their home in Greenfield, Oldham, in 2016 as she came back from a trip with their children.
However, classical music players are at risk too: earlier this year, the Royal Opera House lost its appeal over the life-changing hearing damage caused to a viola player at a single rehearsal of Wagner’s Die Walkure.
Dr Sam Couth, who is based at the University’s Centre for Audiology and Deafness, said: “Our research shows that people working in the music industry are at considerable risk of developing tinnitus, and this risk is largely due to exposure to loud noise. This includes performing musicians, music directors and production staff for all genres of music. Musicians are advised to wear hearing protection when noise levels exceed 85 decibels, which is roughly equivalent to the noise produced by a passing diesel truck.”
Experts say the length of safe noise exposure is reduced by half for every 3 decibels increase in noise intensity. That equates to four hours of daily exposure for 88 decibels of noise, two hours for 91 decibels, and so on.
“Most amplified concerts exceed 100 decibels, meaning that musicians shouldn’t be exposed to that level of noise for more than 15 minutes without proper hearing protection,” added Dr Couth.